WASHINGTON — U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon on Wednesday applauded the White House for its handling of North Korean threats of nuclear war.
The California Republican told Defense News he is satisfied Obama administration officials have made all the military and diplomatic moves “that they can do” as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has grown increasingly bellicose in recent weeks.
Kim and his regime have warned of a nuclear war with South Korea and threatened to fire missiles at the United States.
In response, the Obama administration has moved ships designed to carry out missile-defense missions closer to the region and flown nuclear-capable bombers over South Korea.
Rhetorically, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called Kim’s regime a “real and clear danger” to the United States and its allies in the region, such as South Korea and Japan.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Senate Republicans have called on the North’s lone ally, China, to help talk the young leader down from the perch of nuclear war.
Kerry says Beijing “has such an important role to play and which has always maintained a closer relationship to the North than any other country.”
Asked if he is satisfied with the moves taken by the Obama administration, of whom he has been highly critical over the years, McKeon nodded and said, “Yes, I’m happy that they’ve done everything that they can do.
“Nobody knows what that young leader is up to or what he might do,” McKeon said during a brief interview, referring to North Korea’s 29-year-old supreme leader.
However, McKeon expressed frustration that the first tranche — $46 billion in 2013 — of the $500 billion defense sequestration budget cut means the U.S. military cannot do more.
“I talk to guys in the Pentagon, and I know they are watching this very closely,” McKeon said, referring to Adm. Samuel Locklear, U.S. Pacific Command chief. “Adm. Locklear says usually they would send an aircraft carrier. But due to cutbacks, they can’t this time.”
Instead, Locklear has told McKeon “that they’ll keep using the B-2s and the F-22s that are already over there.”