The United States needs to be aggressive in its response to rhetoric coming from North Korea, which has threatened to attack South Korea and the U.S. as its faces tougher international sanctions following its latest nuclear test, said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
In recent days, Washington has pledged to boost missile defenses on the West Coast, shifted more warships to the region, and sent F-22 fighter jets to its ally South Korea. For his part, Pyongyang’s young leader Kim Jong-un appeared in front of a map labeled "Plans to Attack the Mainland U.S."
“Do you ever watch Bugs Bunny? You’ve heard of the Road Runner? Wiley Coyote? The maps for attack?” Rogers told National Journal Daily. “If this weren’t so serious, it would lead you to a chuckle that he put up a map: ‘Plans for Mainland U.S. attack.’ Clearly that’s [for] a psychological impact, and not real plans for a U.S. attack.”
The idea of a map may be laughable, but the threat is real, Rogers said. Kim has “surrounded himself with hard-liners; his rhetoric grows more confrontational, not leaving himself a whole lot of room to back off; we don’t really know his mentality under this kind of circumstance, he doesn’t have a pattern here,” Rogers said. “We know the military is eager for some conflict somewhere to prove [itself], and we know that he is interested in impressing the military—he’s a 28-year-old leader. All of that spells trouble for us.”
Washington’s actions so far send a clear message to Kim, who has been aggressive in developing his country's missile capabilities, Rogers said. “The very fact it was important for the United States to move into position interceptors on the West Coast tells you this is serious,” he noted, “and so, obviously, [we] want to try to turn this down as fast as you can. [We] don’t want to have an exchange. We’re just not sure he’s interested in not having an exchange. That’s the biggest unknown in this whole process.”
Rogers praised the Obama administration’s response so far, which raised the stakes on Pyongyang. “You don’t get to be a bad actor in a vacuum here,” he said of Kim. “We have a relationship and treaty with South Korea that we would honor—and I argue we should—and [we should show him] this is a losing proposition.” Next, Rogers said, the administration should engage China to step up to put an end to North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program.
“China has as much to lose with a nuclear Korean Peninsula as anyone, including the South Koreans saying, ‘If they go nuclear, we’re clearly going to go nuclear,’ ” Rogers said. “That is proliferation at its worst. We have a lot to do to put this back in the box, and we should be aggressive about doing it.”
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