Rep. Peter King of New York declared on Tuesday that the United States had “the moral obligation and the absolute right to defend ourselves” should North Korean leader Kim Jong Un follow through on his threats to attack the nation.
“I don’t think we necessarily have to wait until they attack,” King, the GOP chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “If we have good reason to believe that there’s going to be an attack, we have the right to take pre-emptive action to protect ourselves.
“I don’t think we have to wait till Americans are killed or wounded or injured in any way.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Pyongyang said it would restart a nuclear reactor that it closed more than five years ago, demonstrating Kim’s commitment to the country's nuclear weapons program.
The announcement led Secretary of State John Kerry to declare that U.S. would not accept North Korea as a “nuclear state.”
“The bottom line is very simple: It is provocative, dangerous and reckless — and the United States will not accept the DPRK as a nuclear state,” Kerry said at a briefing with South Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.
Meanwhile, King was responding to a question from Burnett in which she quoted the head of the Korean Studies Institute at the University of Southern California as saying that “the red line” for North Korea was if it struck the United States first.
“I’m not saying that we should be rushing into war, but if we have solid evidence that North Korea is gonna to take action, then we have the moral obligation and the absolute right to defend ourselves,” King said. “I wouldn’t even consider that pre-emptive; to me, we’d be stopping an attack that is about to happen.”
He added that the Tuesday developments from Pyongyang should be taken very seriously — and that they represented “the most sustained type of pressure coming from the North in quite some time.
“It’s significant, because it shows another step that Kim Jong Un is taking — and my concern is that he is taking step after step,” King said. “I consider this very serious. Certainly, the South Korean government considers it serious. The Obama administration does.
“We have to take it very seriously,” King reiterated. “No need to panic.”
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