No high-level official has defected from North Korea since 1997, he said.
“I just don’t think anyone, not the Chinese, not the Russians, is able to penetrate the inner circle to be able to determine with any amount of certainty what their intentions are,” he said.
And while the North Korean regime’s clumsy propaganda is often fodder for ridicule, the regime has proved adept at fooling Western spies while hiding sensitive weapons-work underground.
“The North Koreans are masterful at deception,” he said.
In 1999, US officials grew alarmed over what appeared to be a nuclear facility, but after an inspection was arranged following laborious negotiations, the site turned out to be nothing more than a large hole in the ground.
“When we do see things, it’s because they want us to see them. They know we’re watching,” he said.