CIA establishes mission center focused on North Korea

CIA establishes mission center focused on North Korea
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The CIA has opened a mission center focused on curbing North Korea's advancing weapons program, the agency announced on Wednesday.

"Creating the Korea Mission Center allows us to more purposefully integrate and direct CIA efforts against the serious threats to the United States and its allies emanating from North Korea," CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "It also reflects the dynamism and agility that CIA brings to evolving national security challenges."

A veteran CIA operations officer allegedly has been tapped to lead the mission center as the assistant director of Korea, though the agency did not give the officer's name.

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The establishment of the mission center comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. The U.S. last month sent a naval strike group into the West Pacific near the Korean Peninsula to deter Pyongyang from conducting further weapons tests.

North Korea has denounced the naval maneuver as an act of aggression and threatened a nuclear strike against the U.S. if provoked. The rising tensions between the two countries have put U.S. allies in the region on high alert, particularly in South Korea and Japan, where tens of thousands of U.S. troops are stationed.

The U.S. also moved its THAAD missile defense system to a deployment site in South Korea last month in preparation for a potential North Korean attack.

Pyongyang alleged last week that the CIA and South Korea's National Intelligence Service conspired to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un using a "bio-chemical substance." There is no evidence as of yet to back up that claim.

The opening of the mission center also follows on the heels of liberal candidate Moon Jae-in's victory in South Korea's presidential election Tuesday. Moon has vowed to deepen ties with the North and has called for a review of the U.S.'s deployment of the THAAD missile defense system.