North America

Trump pans using CIA against North Korea

Donald Trump says using the CIA against Kim Jong Un will not happen on his watch. (AAP)

A day after reports Kim Jong Nam was a CIA source, Donald Trump has opposed the US using the agency to spy on his brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Donald Trump has taken a public stance against the use of CIA informants to spy on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying it wouldn't happen on his watch.

The remarks represent a fresh attempt by the US president to cosy up to the North Korean leader, a policy that has drawn criticism for seeming to overlook Kim's autocratic rule.

Trump spoke a day after the Wall Street Journal reported Kim's slain half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was a source for the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Kim Jong Nam was killed at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2017.

"I saw the information about the CIA, with respect to his brother or half-brother and I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices, that's for sure," Trump told reporters on the White House lawn on Tuesday.

His comments represented the latest in a series of instances in which he has appeared to be at odds with the US intelligence community.

The CIA had no immediate comment.

Susan Rice, who was national security adviser for Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, tweeted her reaction: "America, this tells you all you need to know about our so-called 'Commander-in-Chief.'"

Nuclear-armed North Korea, a police state largely sealed off from the outside world that uses extensive networks of informants to spy on fellow citizens, is considered a "hard target" by the US intelligence community because of the difficulty of recruiting agents.

Preventing the CIA from being able to recruit sources like Kim's late half-brother or highly placed North Koreans would deny the agency valuable insights into its leadership and threats to regional and US security.

"The president should understand ... the CIA needs to be able to do its job gathering and analysing intelligence that will support the full range of diplomatic, military, and economic policies and initiatives," former top US intelligence official Jung H. Pak wrote in an email.

Washington is seeking to rebuild momentum in stalled talks with Pyongyang, aimed at getting it to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Trump and Kim last met early this year in Hanoi but failed to reach a denuclearisation agreement.

Trump hailed on Tuesday what he called a "beautiful" letter from Kim. "I think that something will happen that's going to be very positive," he said, giving no details.

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