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Republicans Blast Obama Over North Korean Nuclear Test

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Royce and other Senate Republicans used North Korea’s latest nuclear test to attack the president’s foreign policies.

It was the first nuclear test carried out under the younger Kim, who appears to be following his father’s footsteps in ignoring sanctions and international criticism and using nuclear weapons tests to keep foes at a distance. The latest test also drew criticism from China, North Korea’s closest ally.

“Today’s test is another reminder of years of failed policies to prevent North Korea’s nuclear programs and proliferation,” House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said in a statement. “The key to stemming North Korea’s cycle of provocation is to seriously engage the Chinese in exercising leverage over their neighbor. We need a completely new approach to dealing with this growing national security threat.”

But Massachusetts Democrat Edward J. Markey, a leader on nonproliferation issues, argued that Obama’s plan to downsize the U.S. nuclear arsenal would help isolate North Korea.

“North Korea’s brazen nuclear weapons test will only help to highlight President Obama’s leadership to reduce our nuclear weapons stockpile,” Markey said. “Slashing America’s nuclear weapons arsenal will give our country the continuing moral authority to push back against the rogue nations and superpowers that want to build more nuclear weapons.”

In the Senate, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, condemned the nuclear tests as “provocative and irresponsible” and said he planned to introduce legislation that would “call upon the international community to take action so that North Korea pays a price for its continued reckless behavior.”

Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, renewed her call for lawmakers to support her effort to reinstate North Korea on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The Bush administration removed North Korea from the list in October 2008, in response to Pyongyang’s decision to allow inspections of its nuclear program.

“The 2008 delisting of North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism was a mistake and a premature decision,” she said in a written statement.

In contrast to his Republican colleagues, Florida’s Marco Rubio, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, issued a more temperate statement in reaction to Pyongyang’s nuclear test.

“It is my hope that the Foreign Relations Committee holds a series of hearings as soon as possible to review the Administration’s policies concerning peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and the Asia Pacific in general,” he said.

Rubio, delivered the GOP rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening and is seen by many in his party as a promising candidate for the presidency in 2016, said the president, Secretary of State John Kerry and his fellow lawmakers “must make it clear that future conduct of this nature is unacceptable.”

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