Xi can use his power in China to be a positive force globally: US spy chief

Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening session of the Chinese Communist Party's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct 18, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Chinese President Xi Jinping is consolidating his power in the Communist Party congress that is under way in Beijing and could use his commanding position as a positive force globally, according to America's chief spy.

"We think that President Xi will come out of this in a dominant position with incredible capacity to do good around the world," Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday (Oct 19) in Washington.

He said the CIA's "old-school guys who used to do Kremlin work" in the days of the Soviet Union are now tracking the political machinations surrounding the congress that's held in China only once every five years.

In a speech of more than three hours on Wednesday, Xi laid out a sweeping vision to transform China into a strong global power while guaranteeing the primacy of Communist Party rule - and his own leadership.

"I hope they'll take this opportunity to demonstrate that they truly are going to be globally important players in reducing a global threat like Kim Jong Un presents with his nuclear weapons system, and the behaviours we've seen have been good,'' Pompeo said at a conference of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

China has made progress in helping curb the nuclear threats from Kim's regime in North Korea, Pompeo said, but the US is hoping it will do more given the "great relationship" that's developed between Xi and President Donald Trump.

"There's been real progress there,'' Pompeo said.

"Frankly, when I came into my new role in January of this year, if you had told the intelligence community that we could have expected the Chinese to do all the things that they have to date, there would have been great skepticism inside of our building, and there certainly would've been great scepticism around the world.''

While China has communicated to the world that it's "intent'' on helping the U.S. resolve the North Korea crisis without resorting to military action, Pompeo said the US is willing to take military steps if no other option remains.

On North Korea's ability to field an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, Pompeo said: "They are closer now than they were five years ago, and I expect they will be closer in five months than they are today, absent a global effort to push back against them.''

Each test, whether "successful or unsuccessful, as defined in the West, continues to develop Kim Jong Un and his engineers' and scientists' knowledge base,'' he said.

"They are intent upon completing that whole chain of activity.'' Pompeo said there's difficulty in gathering intelligence in North Korea's closed society, but "from a U.S. policy perspective, we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective,'' he said.

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