NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said foreign leaders from Japan, China and South Korea are concerned about U.S. fiscal health as tensions remain high over North Korea.
Corker was in Nashville on Tuesday speaking to the Economic Club of Nashville after returning on Saturday from a trip to Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul.
He said he spoke with the prime minister of Japan, the new president of South Korea and defense leaders in China during his trip.
“All of them are certainly talking about the sequester,” Corker told the group. “They are worried where we are going to be, defense-wise, where we are losing our moral authority.”
But he said the budget cuts have forced the Democrats and Republicans to come together to discuss ways to grow revenue and reduce spending in Social Security and Medicare.
“I think what it is going to do is drive us to a place where we deal with entitlement reform in an appropriate way,” Corker said.
North Korea on Tuesday announced plans to restart its plutonium reactor, the latest in a string of threats made against South Korea and the United States.
Corker called the talk rhetorical, but said North Korea’s nuclear capabilities are becoming a real concern and were “more advanced than Iran at this point,” he said.
But he said the fear in South Korea is that North Korean troops will start a provocation on the border that will get out of control.
“What they are concerned about is one of them fires an artillery or does something that ends up escalating out of control,” he said.
Ultimately he said China bears responsibility to de-escalate the rising tension in region.
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