By Jeremy Herb - 04/15/13 06:54 PM EDT
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wants the U.S. military to shoot down any North Korean missile, putting him at odds with the top U.S. commander in the Pacific.
McCain issued a statement Monday saying that the United States should “treat any North Korean missile launch as a threat to our national security and our allies, and that we should shoot it down once it leaves North Korean airspace.”
McCain’s statement followed his questioning last week of Adm. Samuel Locklear, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command.
McCain asked Locklear whether the U.S. military was capable of shooting down a missile from North Korea, and Locklear said it was.
Then McCain asked if Locklear would recommend that any missile coming from North Korea should be shot down.
Locklear said he would not, unless he knew where the target was.
McCain did not challenge Locklear on his statement at the hearing, or suggest to him that missiles being shot into the Pacific Ocean should be shot down in addition to those that were headed toward U.S. or its allies’ territory.
His statement Monday, however, said no distinction should be made.
“North Korea’s leaders should have no doubt that the United States of America has both the capability and the will to eliminate the threats they seek to pose to international peace and stability,” McCain said.
The North Koreans did not test-fire a missile on Monday, the birthday anniversary of Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, suggesting tensions could be easing.
The White House downplayed the significance of not firing a missile tied to the anniversary celebration.
“We certainly would not be surprised if North Korea were to take that action,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said of a missile launch Monday. “It would be in keeping with past behavior.”