Published : 2013-09-04 09:43
Updated : 2013-09-04 09:43
As a U.S. strike on Syria looks imminent, officials here are increasingly talking about North Korea to help make the case for such military action.
They emphasize the need for setting a precedent for possible similar problems caused by North Korea, Iran and terrorist groups.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the infamous groups are watching how the U.S. responds to the Syrian crisis.
"Our inaction would surely give them (Iran) a permission slip for them to at least misinterpret our intention if not to put it to the test," Kerry said Tuesday at a Senate hearing on the Syria issue. "North Korea is hoping that ambivalence carries the day.
They are all listening for our silence."
Sitting next to Kerry, Hagel agreed to the importance of showing the U.S. commitment to the defense of allies and the international norms against the use of chemical weapons.
"For example, North Korea maintains a massive stockpile of chemical weapons that threatens our treaty ally, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed there,"
he said. "Our allies throughout the world must be assured that the United States will fulfill its security commitments."
Based on a U.N.-led inquiry, the U.S. contends the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against civilian dissidents, killing at least 1,429 people, including more than 400 children.
The secretaries were backing President Barack Obama's outreach to Capitol Hill and U.S. allies on his plan for what he calls "proportional" strikes on Syria.
Congress is expected to discuss the issue on a full scale when it returns next week from summer recess. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee convened the special hearing on Syria to discuss the possible use of force.
A number of political leaders are already taking Obama's side on the matter.
"The failure to act, I think, gives license to the Syrian president to use these weapons again and it sends a terrible signal to other brutal regimes, like North Korea," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said at the hearing.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also said Washington's inaction could lead to miscalculation by North Korea and Iran.
"If we don't act against Syria in this instance, what message does that send to Iran and North Korea? The stakes are incredibly high here," he said in an interview with MSNBC.
On Monday, meanwhile, Obama had phone talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the Syria issue, the White House said.
"The two leaders agreed that the use of chemical weapons is a serious violation of international norms and cannot be tolerated.
They pledged to continue to consult closely on possible responses by the international community," it said in a press release. (Yonhap News)