U.S. Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo is in Seoul for talks with South Korean intelligence officials as top U.S. officials continue to express deep concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons development program.
Pompeo, traveling with his wife Susan, arrived in the South Korean capital over the weekend and met with the head of the National Intelligence Service and high-level presidential aides.
Their meetings occurred hours before Pyongyang declared Monday that in the face of new U.S. pressure for U.N. sanctions against North Korea it would "speed up" its nuclear deterrence "at the maximum pace."
North Korea conducted another missile test Saturday, another in a string of launches that South Korea and U.S. officials say was a failure. Pyongyang is looking to develop a long-range missile, one that could carry a nuclear warhead 9,000 kilometers to the U.S. mainland.
U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Sunday that Washington would adhere to its agreement with South Korea to shoulder the cost of a new missile defense system that is being installed in the face of the North Korean threat. But McMaster said the U.S. is also looking for Seoul to share the cost in the future.
A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group, headed by the USS Carl Vinson, is in nearby waters off the Korean peninsula, dispatched there by President Donald Trump as a warning signal against North Korea. A Japanese destroyer left port Monday to join the U.S. ships, as Tokyo takes a more active military role in the region.
In Australia, Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull issued a new warning against North Korea, saying his government and the U.S. are "taking a strong message to North Korea that we will not tolerate reckless, dangerous threats to the peace and stability of our region.'' Turnbull and Trump are meeting for the first time Thursday in New York.
In an interview broadcast Sunday, Trump said he "would not be happy" if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, which would be its sixth.
"I can tell you also, I don't believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either," Trump said of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Asked if "not happy" with another Pyongyang nuclear test meant he would undertake "military action" against the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump said, "I don't know. I mean, we'll see. It is a chess game. I just don't want people to know what my thinking is."
Trump, in a Twitter comment, said the Pyongyang's latest missile test, even though it failed, "disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President.... Bad!" But in the interview on the CBS network, Trump said North Korea eventually "will have a better delivery system."
The U.S. leader described Kim Jong Un as "obviously ... a pretty smart cookie," but said the U.S. cannot allow North Korea to develop a nuclear weapon, and blamed prior American presidential administrations for not dealing with the Pyongyang's military ambitions.
Saturday's North Korean missile test came just hours after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned the United Nations Security Council of "catastrophic consequences" if the international community, and especially China, does not pressure North Korea into ending its nuclear weapons development program.
The United States and South Korea on Sunday completed their annual large-scale military drills, which involved 20,000 South Korean troops and 10,000 U.S. forces. But the two countries continued their joint naval exercise in the Sea of Japan that Pyongyang has condemned as a provocation in preparation for an attack on North Korea.