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Bill Nelson: If China can’t deter North Korea’s nuclear plans, it could mean war

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According to North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador, the standoff over his country’s nuclear program will end only when the U.S. withdraws its “hostile policy” toward the northeast Asian nation.

In an interview with The Associated Press Friday, Kim In Ryong says his government will not attend “any type of talks which would discuss its nuclear abandonment.”

That includes the U.N. Security Council meeting Friday on the North Korean nuclear issue.

He called it “another abuse” of U.N. authority, acting on instructions of the United States, a veto-wielding member.

Kim said that “it is a wild dream for the U.S. to think of depriving the DPRK (North Korea’s official name) of its nuclear deterrent through military threat and sanctions.”

But neither the Donald Trump administration nor Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, sound like they’re ready to tamp down the rhetoric when it comes to living with a nuclear North Korea.

“I can tell you that this Senator doesn’t want to live with a nuclear North Korea any more than what it has right now,” Nelson told reporters at a news conference at his district office in Tampa Friday. “And that means having an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) that can reach almost the entire U.S.”

Meanwhile, China is calling for North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile activities, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying at a U.N. Security Council ministerial meeting Friday that “use of force … will only lead to bigger disasters.”

While the Trump administration is banking on China pressuring its communist neighbors, Nelson says it would be foolhardy to rely on the Chinese alone to restrain the North’s nuclear ambitions.

“If we’re relying entirely on China, I think it’s going to be a long time coming because the Chinese are not reliable,” the Florida Democrat said. “So if China can’t help us, that leaves one thing left, and that is kinetic action, which is a war.”

With almost 26 million people living in the Seoul metropolitan area, Nelson says “there are no easy answers.”

The senator feels the ideal situation is a nuclear arms deal, similar to what the Obama administration and the western powers executed with Iran in 2015.

But Nelson also acknowledges that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, isn’t likely to back down.

“So, we’re ultimately going to be faced with a war,” Nelson said on a dour note, “or we’re going to have to be faced with a North Korea with a nuclear ICMB that can reach the U.S.”

The U.S. Air Force test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile which traveled over 4,000 miles before splashing down in the South Pacific after launching early Wednesday from a base in California. The test was long-planned, according to defense officials.

When asked about the timing of the test amid threats surrounding North Korea, one official told Fox News“If we had canceled the launch, that would be a story too.”

The U.S. Air Force has 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles in underground silos across three bases in Wyoming, North Dakota, and Montana.

In the coming years, that number will reduce to 400.

Meanwhile, rumors are circulating on Capitol Hill that House Republicans may have enough votes to commit to attempting to pass a health care bill next week.

Disputing that notion, Nelson believes there is still too much dissent within the GOP’s various factions for a vote to make it to the floor.

“I don’t think they’ll pass it in the House,” he says, “because they can’t get their act together, just like they couldn’t a month ago when they tried to pass a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.”

“What we ought to do the fixes to the ACA, and then you don’t throw 24 million people that now have health insurance that never had it before,” Nelson adds. “You don’t throw them out on the street not having any health insurance. That’s what we ought to do, but this all gets balled up in politics, and you get the pushing and tugging, and you get the partisanship and all of that.

“Well, this time you see that, even within one party, you can’t get agreement. So, I don’t anticipate we’re going to have that problem again. We do need to have some fixes (to the ACA).”

Nelson also says he would work with Trump on tax reform, and it needed to come with a plan for infrastructure spending.

It was the same idea then-candidate Trump talked about on the campaign trail but has yet to enact in his first 100 days in office.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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