Mike Pompeo says he could imagine US ground invasion of North Korea during nomination grilling
Donald Trump’s nomination for America’s top diplomat has said he could imagine the US launching a ground invasion of North Korea. Mike Pompeo, proposed as the new secretary of state, said the US may at some point have to “move past diplomacy” to stop the regime’s nuclear programme. However Mr Pompeo stressed he did not favour “regime change” and wanted to solve the world’s crises with diplomatic rather than military means. During a grilling by a Senate committee, Mr Pompeo said he had been interviewed by the Russian election meddling investigation but declined to answer questions about what was discussed. He said he would not quit if Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Russia investigation, was sacked by Mr Trump. Mr Pompeo declined to say that Mr Trump should pull out of the Iran nuclear deal unilaterally and pledged to counter Russia’s attempts to undermine Western democracy. He also promised to fill gaps in the State Department that have been left open since Mr Trump took office, warning that diplomats had become demoralised. Relationship with Donald Trump Mr Pompeo, currently the CIA director, needs to be approved by the Senate before he can replace Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state who was fired by Mr Trump. Mr Pompeo will become Boris Johnson’s opposite number if he is approved and has been seen as a foreign policy hawk on issues such as Iran and North Korea. Donald Trump had a strained relationship with Rex Tillerson, left, who was fired as secretary of state in March 2018 Credit: SAUL LOEBSAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images The former Republican congressman and ex-captain in the US army has been painted by political opponents as a “yes man” to Mr Trump who could fuel his worst instincts. During his Senate appearance, Mr Pompeo attempted to push back on his “hardliner” image while echoing many of Mr Trump’s foreign policy positions. In an opening statement, Mr Pompeo said he had “no discomfort with directness” - a comment that suggests he would be willing to stand up to the president. He also said he was “not afraid of getting my hands dirty”, does not “hold grudges” and prefers to thrash out differences face-to-face rather than over email. North Korea military action On policy, Mr Pompeo insisted he did not favour regime change in North Korea, where leader Kim Jong-un has continued to develop nuclear weapons since Mr Trump took office, but did not rule out military action. One senator asked whether there was “any circumstance” where “a ground invasion of North Korea would be necessary in order to rid that country of its nuclear weapons programme”. Mr Pompeo responded: “I suppose I could hypothise such situations so I’ll answer your question as could I imagine one? Yes, yes senator, I could. "I mean, I suppose it's possible that we would get to the condition … where Kim Jong-un was directly threatening and we had information about his activities. “Yes, I can imagine times when America would need to take a response that moved past diplomacy.” Iran On Iran, Mr Pompeo said there was “no evidence” that Iran was not in compliance with the terms of a nuclear deal struck by Barack Obama – raising hopes the agreement could still be kept by Mr Trump. He came under tough questioning over his past political stances, refusing to give a yes or no answer to whether he though gay sex was a "perversion". Mr Pompeo stressed instead that he treats all staff equally regardless of their sexual orientation. Mr Pompeo also said that America had killed “a couple hundred” Russian mercenaries in a previously reported clash with US-led forces in Syria. US officials have previously given only limited details about the incident. Personal life: show tunes and cornhole Mr Pompeo, who has developed a close relationship with Mr Trump through the daily intelligence briefing the he often delivers, also shared details about his personal life. He said he is a fan of show tunes and revolutionary war history, can cook good meatballs and once won employee of the month twice at the ice cream maker Baskin-Robbins. He said his family "didn't have a whole lot of money" when he grew up and joked he often beat his son at the game cornhole, which involves tossing a beanbag towards a platform. Mr Pompeo is expected to win Senate approval, given he was approved last year to head up the CIA.