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Trump against CIA informants spying on N Korea

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WASHINGTON : US President Donald Trump on Tuesday took a public stance against the use of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) informants to spy on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying it would not happen on his watch, possibly taking away a valuable tool of the US intelligence community.

Mr Trump’s remarks represented a fresh attempt by the President to cosy up to the North Korean leader, a policy that has drawn criticism for seeming to overlook Mr Kim’s autocratic rule.

Mr Trump spoke a day after the Wall Street Journal reported that Mr Kim’s slain halfbrother, Mr Kim Jong Nam, was a source for the CIA. Mr Kim Jong Nam was killed in Malaysia, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in 2017.

“I saw the information about the CIA, with respect to his brother, or half-brother. And I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices, that’s for sure. I wouldn’t let that happen under my auspices,” Mr Trump said.

His comments represented the latest in a series of instances in which he has appeared to be at odds with the US intelligence community.

Ms Susan Rice, who was National Security Adviser for Mr Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Mr Barack Obama, tweeted her reaction to the remarks: “America, this tells you all you need to know about our so-called ‘Commander-in- Chief’.”

Nuclear-armed North Korea, a police state largely sealed off from the outside world that uses extensive networks of informants to spy on their fellow citizens, is considered a “hard target” by the US intelligence community because of the difficulty of recruiting agents.

Preventing the CIA from being able to recruit sources like Mr Kim’s late half-brother or highly placed North Koreans would deny the agency valuable insights into its leadership and threats to regional and US security.

“The President should understand that to keep the nation safe, the CIA needs to be able to do its job gathering and analyzing intelligence that will support the full range of diplomatic, military, and economic policies and initiatives,” Ms Jung H. Pak, a former senior US intelligence official who specialised in East Asia and is now with the Brookings Institution think tank, wrote in an e-mail.

Washington is seeking to rebuild momentum in stalled talks with Pyongyang, aimed at getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim last met early this year in Hanoi but failed to reach a denuclearisation agreement.– REUTERS