Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra tells Newsmax that North Korea will “continue to be belligerent” following the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il.
And he warns that the new regime in the reclusive communist state may seek to send signals indicating that it remains “someone to be feared.”
Hoekstra was elected to the House in 1992. The Michigan Republican was chairman of the Intelligence Committee from 2004 and 2007 and the ranking Republican for three years after that. He ran unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010, and is seeking the Senate seat now held by two-term Democrat Debbie Stabenow.
Stabenow should recuse herself from a probe of the bankrupt securities firm MF Global because of her close ties to its former CEO Jon Corzine, Hoekstra says.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Hoekstra discussed what lies ahead for North Korea under its presumed new leader, Kim Jong Il’s son Kim Jong Un.
“The first thing we have to recognize is that over the past 10 or 15 years how unpredictable North Korea is and how little our intelligence community is able to get information and actually be able to predict what may or may not happen,” he says.
“With that caveat, my expectation is that the new leader in North Korea will try to consolidate his power. As for the internal operations of North Korea, they’re going to go underground for a while, I’d say anywhere from the one to three years it may take this guy to consolidate his power and clearly be in control.
“The second thing you can predict is that externally to the rest of the world, North Korea will continue to be belligerent. They may perhaps do another nuclear test, just to try to send a signal that we’re moving ahead with our nuclear program and those kinds of things, and we are someone who needs to be feared.
“We’d like to say maybe we will get a new leader that will open up, will stop its nuclear program, will have more engagement with the West, stop the economic policies that have been devastating to its people. But for a leader to make the kinds of change that we would like to see North Korea make, you’re going to need a strong leader.
“Kim Jong Un will have to consolidate power and if he does, or if he doesn’t and some other regime takes over for him, once they consolidate power I think at that point maybe we can start seeing some change in North Korean behavior.
“But for the short and medium term, meaning the next three to five years, I think you will see very little change. If anything they may become tougher and may become harder to deal with during that period of time.”
Hoekstra says he remains concerned about North Korea’s trafficking of nuclear materials, citing the reactor in Syria that was destroyed by the Israelis, which had North Korea’s “fingerprints all over it.”
North Korea could be trafficking with other countries, including Iran, he adds.
“No one really knows what they may be doing, but perhaps that kind of activity might be interrupted in the interim.”
He also tells Newsmax that pressure from the United States and its allies seeking to take advantage of the change in leadership would most likely serve only to strengthen the hardliners in the North Korean regime.
“This is not a great time to be negotiating with them to open up to the West,” according to Hoekstra.
Turning to politics, Hoekstra declined to endorse a Republican presidential candidate or say who would be the best choice for true conservatives.
“We’ve got a number of good choices out there. Clearly, they all have their own strengths and weaknesses, but any one of them would be significantly more conservative than what we have in the White House right now.”
As for Newt Gingrich, Hoekstra says: “The bottom line is, when he had the opportunity to lead, he led Republicans to the first majority in 40 years in 1994. He led efforts that enabled us to restrain spending and balance the budget.
“We need to be talking about the future — who has the capability to lead, who has the capability to bring transformational change to Washington.”
Hoekstra says his own race for the U.S. Senate is going “extremely well,” pointing out that rival Stabenow is below 50 percent, according to a recent poll.
“And she is making some I think strategically bad moves,” he says, citing her involvement in a probe of MF Global, which went bankrupt in late October and cost investors hundreds of millions of dollars. Its CEO at the time, Corzine, is the former Democratic governor of New Jersey and a former U.S. senator.
Stabenow, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, is “leading an investigation into MF Global. I think it’s what needs to be done but she shouldn’t be doing it,” Hoekstra asserts.
“She should be recusing herself from this. She has taken significant campaign contributions from Corzine and she was his deputy when he was running the Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“She has way too many ties to Senator Corzine to be leading an investigation into a company that’s seen its net worth decline by $1.4 billion.
“There are other people on this committee that can lead this effort that don’t have the same cloud of suspicion hanging over them that Senator Stabenow does. She is investigating a friend of hers. This needs to be turned over to someone else.”
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