U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, made the following statement regarding North Korea's most recent provocative announcement that it plans on restarting a nuclear reactor that can produce plutonium. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"Yesterday, North Korea announced its intention to restart the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon to provide plutonium for its nuclear weapons program. This statement underscores the rising threat of Pyongyang's proliferation efforts, since North Korea has been known to partner with the rogue regimes in Tehran and Damascus in pursuit of mutual nuclear weapons capabilities. Unless actions are taken to force North Korea to reverse course, this could lead to a nuclear arms race of unprecedented levels.
"North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable and its threats of war are irresponsible. It's clear that the North Korean regime has placed its nuclear weapons program as its number one priority, ahead of its citizens who are dying of malnutrition and starvation. Kim Jong-il's mini-me, Kim Jong-un, may be increasing tensions to an alarmingly high rate to win him some political points at home, but the national security risk it poses to our nation and our interests in the region will not be tolerated.
Administration after administration has fallen victim to this cat-and-mouse game and have taken a naïve approach to the North Korean threat, landing us where we are today. It's time for this Administration to take a firm stance against this kind of erratic and irresponsible behavior emanating from Pyongyang by re-designating North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism and enhance sanctions against Iran, North Korea, and Syria to prevent them from sharing resources and technology to advance their nuclear ambitions.
NOTE: Ros-Lehtinen's bipartisan bill H.R. 673, the "North Korea Sanctions and Diplomatic Nonrecognition Act of 2013," would call on the Secretary of State to re-designate North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Ros-Lehtinen has also introduced H.R. 893 -- the "Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Accountability Act of 2013", which prohibits assistance to any foreign government that has provided assistance to these rogue regimes and increases sanctions on those who provide goods, services or technology for Iran, North Korea and Syria's chemical, biological or advanced conventional weapons programs.