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(LEAD) CIA director in S. Korea for consultations on N. Korea: report

2017/05/01 14:33

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with political circles' response, details)

SEOUL, May 1 (Yonhap) -- Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is on an unannounced visit to South Korea for discussions on North Korea, government sources said Monday.

He is the highest-ranking American official to travel to Seoul since Vice President Mike Pence's trip last month.

Pompeo arrived here on Saturday and had a series of meetings with Lee Byung-ho, head of South Korea's National Intelligence Service, and officials at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, according to the sources.

He also had a dinner meeting on Sunday joined by Marc Knapper, the acting U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

CIA Director Mike Pompeo in a file photo (AP-Yonhap) CIA Director Mike Pompeo in a file photo (AP-Yonhap)

His visit is apparently focused on coordinating an approach toward the provocative North Korea. There were no reports of his meeting with South Korea's presidential candidates with the elections slated for next week.

"We did not even know about his arrival in South Korea (before related news reports). There is no contact (from the U.S.) with us," said an official at the campaign office of Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party. He is the leading contender in the presidential race.

Another official at the Moon camp also said it's not customary for a (South Korean) presidential candidate to meet the director of the CIA, which is not part of formal diplomatic channels.

Even if there's a request for a meeting, Moon is unlikely to accept it, added the official.

The Kookmin Ilbo, a Seoul-based newspaper, reported earlier in the day the CIA chief flew into the Osan Air Base south of Seoul some 12 hours after the North conducted a failed ballistic missile test.

He is scheduled to stay in Seoul until Tuesday, it said, citing "key officials in the political circles."

   Another local daily, the Chosun Ilbo, said Pompeo briefed South Korean government officials on details for implementing the Donald Trump administration's new policy on Pyongyang. It quoted multiple intelligence sources.

They also assessed the communist nation's nuclear and missile capabilities and the internal situation of the Kim Jong-un regime, it added.

Pompeo, a former politician, served as a cavalry officer.

Weeks ago, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis made separate trips to Seoul in an apparent show of the Trump government's commitment to the alliance.

lcd@yna.co.kr

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angloinfo.com