Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) on Sunday said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was trying to be a “tough guy” and expressed fears his recent provocations could spiral out of control and spark conflict.
“Kim Jong-Un is trying to establish himself. He's trying to be the tough guy. He is 28, 29 years old, and he keeps going further, and further out, and I don't know if he can get himself back in,” said King on ABC’s “This Week.” “So my concern would be that he may feel to save face he has to launch some sort of attack on South Korea, or some base in the Pacific.”
The rhetoric was the latest salvo from North Korea which has raised tensions on the Korean peninsula in recent weeks, cutting off its sole military direct line with the South and declaring the armistice halting the 1953 Korean War null and void.
Kim assumed power in late 2011, and many Korea watchers believe he is attempting to consolidate his power and rally hardline elements in Pyongyang behind him. Earlier this year North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, inviting heightened UN sanctions and international criticism.
The White House on Saturday said it was taking those threats “seriously,” but cautioned that Pyongyang has a “long history of bellicose rhetoric.”
“It’s not an empty threat,” said King on Sunday.
“I wouldn't be that concerned about them hitting the mainland U.S. right now, even any U.S. territory,” he added. “ I think the real threat is to what North Korea might be boxing itself into.”
King, though, also ruled out the prospect of direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea instead of multi-lateral talks including Japan and South Korea.
“I don't see any purpose in that. As far as I see, this is not even a government. It's sort of like an organized crime family running a territory,” said King.
“They’re -- brutal, he's brutal, his father is brutal, his grandfather was brutal. I don't see any purpose at all in doing that at all. So I think it would marginalize our allies in Asia, certainly in South Korea and it would serve no constructive purpose whatsoever,” he added.