CIA Director Mike Pompeo says that North Korea’s ongoing nuclear and missile development has put Pyongyang on the cusp of deploying a nuclear threat credible enough to strike the United States and Washington’s regional allies.

“They are close enough now in their capabilities that from a US policy perspective we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving” their objective of being able to strike the United States, Pompeo told a national security forum in Washington.

Clarifying, Pompeo did say there is a difference between being able to produce and fire a single nuclear-tipped ICBM and the ability to process enough fissile material to develop an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Noting that intel on North Korea is far from perfect, he added that “when you’re now talking about months, our capacity to understand that at a detailed level is in some sense irrelevant.”

“We are at a time where the president has concluded that we need a global effort to ensure Kim Jong-un doesn’t have that capacity,” Pompeo told the forum, organized by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies thinktank.

Pompeo paid the Chinese a back-handed compliment as well, saying Beijing had performed better than expected in terms of implementing economic and trade sanctions against North Korea to the extent they were done.

Beijing had also communicated around the world it is intent on helping the US resolve the issue.

“We all want to resolve this” without resorting to the military option, the CIA chief said, but added that President Donald Trump was prepared to use force if need be to make sure leader Kim Jong-un “doesn’t have the capacity to hold America at risk.”

Analyst comment: Virtually everyone — our diplomatic, intelligence and military officials — keep reminding us how close North Korea is to developing a full-fledged nuclear threat and that the military option remains a top choice ‘if need be.’ There has been no wavering of the message, no backing off, no change in the Trump administration’s objective of denying Pyongyang a viable nuclear weapons capability. 

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 3: What are the latest indicators of a U.S.-North Korea war? Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region. Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.