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Kim Jong Un, born to a different family, could be 'playing video games and eating Cheetos,' congressman says

  • Rep. Ron DeSantis says Kim Jong Un's status as North Korea's dictator is "an accident of birth."
  • "This is a plump 31-year-old kid," says the Florida Republican. "We don't know how rational he is."
  • Defense Secretary James Mattis tells the Army "to be ready" should action be ordered by President Trump against North Korea.

Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that Kim Jong Un's status as North Korea's dictator is "an accident of birth."

"This is a plump 31-year-old kid," the Florida congressman told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "If he were born somewhere else, and not to that family, he could be playing video games and eating Cheetos in some basement somewhere."

DeSantis, chairman of the House Oversight's National Security subcommittee, said the problem with Kim's aggression toward the U.S. and persistent pursuit of nuclear weapons is two-fold. "We don't know how rational he is," he said. "The other thing is he's willing to transfer that technology to rogue states like Iran."

"This regime's history has shown that they're willing to export that technology. So that may be a bigger threat than them even using it on the United States," said DeSantis. He cited North Korea's involvement in the Syrian nuclear program, which was revealed in the aftermath of Israel's bombing of a Syrian reactor in 2007.

That was before Kim's reign, which began in 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, but his family has been in power for three generations in North Korea.

DeSantis, also a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the United States needs to address the entrenched North Korea situation head-on.

"Neglecting the problem has only made it worse. We're in a much worse situation than we were 25 years ago," DeSantis said. But he added that the Trump administration has made strides. "They've actually done a lot if you look internationally to squeeze the Kim regime. There's less cash going in there now. I'd like to see that continue."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) looks at a metal casing at an undisclosed location an an undated picture released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency.
STR | AFP | Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) looks at a metal casing at an undisclosed location an an undated picture released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency.

"[Kim] is never going to voluntarily give up his program because that's a key for him being there. But if he sees the bottom falling out of his economy, that could threaten his hold on power," DeSantis said. "That would be one way to deal with the problem."

The other way is to flex America's military might, said DeSantis, a day after Defense Secretary James Mattis told the Army "to be ready" should action be ordered by President Donald Trump against North Korea.

"If you don't have a credible threat of military force, then Kim Jong Un has very little incentive to look what's going on around him," said DeSantis.

He said military force is not the only possible action.

"We have cyber capabilities. We have covert capabilities," he said. If Kim were to launch missiles at the U.S., he added, "we have capabilities that would be able to prevent those missiles from reaching their intended targets as well."

Morning Squawk: CNBC's before the bell news roundup

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