North Korea will probably carry out a small military attack in the region so the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, can brandish his power, the chairman of the U.S. House intelligence panel said today.
“I do think there will be some small skirmish before this is over,” Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, said in an interview at Bloomberg News headquarters in New York.
North Korea has threatened to carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the U.S. and South Korea, a move that escalated tensions in the region and prompted calls for dialogue.
“I almost think they are looking for some small engagement so that he can brandish his credentials with the military,” Rogers said. He called Kim’s behavior “brazen” and said the new dictator is surrounded by “hardliners.”
A military attack may be similar to previous actions such as North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean ship in 2010 or a later attack on the border island of Yeonpyeong, Rogers said.
They would be “planned events,” Rogers said, cautioning that heightened tension within North Korea could also lead to unplanned scenarios.
“What you worry about is everybody on high alert, itchy trigger, something sets it off and it spirals out to where they can’t stop it,” Rogers said in the interview. “That’s obviously troubling.”
The longer Kim can be seen “as the guy who’s beating back the United States, I think he believes that helps his cause,” Rogers said. “That’s the dangerous part; he’ll have to do something in order to maintain that posture.”
Tomorrow, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command plans to tell the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea’s violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit building and testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles are a threat to the U.S.
North Korea’s actions “represent a clear and direct threat to U.S. national security and regional peace and stability,” Admiral Samuel Locklear said in testimony prepared for a hearing by the committee tomorrow.
Also, acting State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell called “regrettable” North Korea’s announcement that it will suspend operations at an industrial complex it operates with South Korea. Workers are being recalled from the Gaeseong industrial park and operations will be suspended indefinitely, the official Korean Central News Agency said today, citing Workers’ Party Secretary Kim Yang Gon.
U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said “China and the United States and the world community are very concerned about the provocative acts and statements” by North Korea.
Rogers said the U.S. needs to “get China in the game,” beyond rhetoric. China has the power to stop a “large black-market fuel economy” at the border with North Korea, he said.
“If you really want to get their attention you stop all of that and China has the capability; you just need the will to do it,” Rogers said.
During the interview, the congressman also addressed several domestic issues that are President Barack Obama’s priorities. Rogers, a former FBI agent, said that he supported expanded background checks for gun purchasers.
“I am for the background checks. I’ve got no problem with that,” Rogers said.
A plan being discussed in the Senate would require background checks for almost all purchases, except for transfers between close family members and for some loans of weapons between hunters.
Obama is pressuring Congress to enact tougher gun-control measures four months after the shooting that killed 20 school children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut.
Rogers said the Republican-led House will take up an overhaul of immigration laws “sometime this year.”
“It has to happen. It doesn’t have to happen yesterday,” Rogers said, reflecting the chamber’s slower pace on the immigration issue. “We may have to do it in pieces.”
A bipartisan group of senators is expected to present legislation as soon as this week. Rogers expressed skepticism that the Senate can pass a large overhaul in one bill unless “it truly is a real work of bipartisanship.”
“If they do that, I think the House would consider it,” he said. Still, he said it would be better if a proposal was considered by committees such as Judiciary and Homeland Security instead of going straight to the House floor for a vote.