North Korea’s nuclear weapons development could be used as “blackmail” to influence the U.S. to abandon its ally in South Korea in order to make it easier for Pyongyang to overtake its archrival, a White House official said Tuesday. Matt Pottinger, the Asia director on President Trump’s National Security Council, said there might be some truth to the idea that North Korea wants a nuclear deterrent to protect its communist regime, but the country’s robust conventional military has worked as a deterrent for decades.

“They have made no secret in conversations they have had with former American officials, for example, and others that they want to use these weapons as an instrument of blackmail to achieve other goals, even including perhaps coercive reunification of the Korean Peninsula one day,” Pottinger said at a conference in Washington. Pottinger said North Korea also wants the U.S. “to leave the peninsula and abandon our alliances.” READ MORE