(CNN) - Rep. Peter King, former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Sunday that the recent provocative, warmongering rhetoric out of North Korea is no "empty threat."
He qualified that by explaining he does not fear the North launching a successful attack on the U.S. mainland, but is concerned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "is trying to establish himself ... trying to be the tough guy," and may "box himself in" and need to display some level of military might.
"My concern would be that he may feel to save face he has to launch some sort of attack on South Korea, or some base in the Pacific," King, R-New York, said on ABC's "This Week."
North Korea has ratcheted up its rhetoric in recent weeks, declaring the armistice keeping the peace between it and the South to be null, distributing a photo with a "plan for the strategic forces to target mainland U.S.," and on Saturday announcing it was entering a "state of war" with its neighbor.
Despite that and posts on the country's state-run news agency blaring headlines such as "Nuclear War to Be Conducted on Korean Peninsula," a U.S. official said late Friday, "We have no indications at this point that it's anything more than warmongering rhetoric."
"It's sort of like an organized crime family running a territory," King said. "He's brutal, his father is brutal, his grandfather was brutal."
The congressman said he doesn't "see any purpose" in President Barack Obama speaking by phone with the young leader, who assumed control of the country after his father's death in December 2011. Retired basketball star Dennis Rodman visited the country earlier this month and said afterward Kim was interested in speaking with Obama.
The U.S. and North Korea do not have diplomatic ties but have negotiated in multiparty talks over the country's nuclear weapons program and occasionally exchange messages through diplomatic intermediaries.
In response to the North's latest rhetoric, the Obama administration increased its military capacity on the U.S. West Coast and conducted training exercises with South Korea, where nearly 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed.
Ed Gillespie, former senior adviser to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said the administration made a "sensible reaction."
"I think in addition to that, it would be good for the administration to not only bolster our own missile defense, but to support Japan and South Korea with missile defense," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "They are nervous, understandably, and I think doing anything - everything we can to reassure them would be helpful. And obviously, you know, trying to get China to engage in their own region in a way that would be helpful, I think, with Kim Jong Un would be important, too."
King suggested the players are nervous because Kim may feel he has no alternative but to continue upping his threats or lash out.
"He is 28, 29 years old, and he keeps going further and further out, and I don't know if he can get himself back in," King said.
– CNN's Ben Brumfield, KJ Kwon and Jethro Mullen contributed to this report