If North Korea escalates its nuclear and missile program and creates an international conflict, “it will be the worst war I think we’ve seen since World War II,” a Republican House member said Friday.
“When I hear all options are on the table, look, we have a sworn duty to defend our ally in South Korea,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said during an Atlantic Council event in Washington.
“If [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] decides that he wants to keep escalating and it ends up in a shooting war, it’ll be the worst war I think we’ve seen since World War II, maybe even on a localized basis, even worse than anything we’ve seen in World World II.”
Despite global pressure, North Korea has been largely successful in developing and advancing its nuclear program. In tests as recent as this month, Pyongyang has sought to improve the country's missile capabilities with the ultimate goal of affixing a nuclear payload.
Addressing the issue, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday in Japan that U.S. policies to stop North Korea's nuclear program have "failed.” A day later while visiting South Korea, he said that "all of the options are on the table" if a serious threat arises from the country.
Kinzinger — a veteran who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan — said he takes Kim Jong Un seriously “because I think he’s nuts” and believes the answer to a de-escalation of the North Korean threat lies with China and Russia.
“It’s being able to have those folks that are closer to the north,” he said. “Obviously we have a very bad relationship with them, we’re not pals, [but] to be able to exert influence on North Korea ... is to encourage our friends in the region who I think are rightfully concerned with North Korea as well to step up.”
Kinzinger also pointed to missile defense in Europe and the United States as “extremely important.”
“We have a lot of options we’re working on,” he added.
Earlier this month, the United States deployed the missile defense system Terminal High Altitude Area Defense to South Korea. The move is meant to protect against North Korea’s burgeoning missile program.