(CNN) - The United States would be right to launch a military strike against North Korea if there is "solid evidence" that it plans to attack America or South Korea, a congressional Republican influential on national security matters said on Tuesday.
"If we have good reason to believe there's going to be an attack, I believe we have the right to take preemptive action," Rep. Peter King of New York said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."
King, the former chairman of the House Homeland Security, continues to sit on that panel as well as the Intelligence Committee.
"I don't think we have to wait until Americans are killed or wounded or injured in any way," he said. "I'm not saying we should be rushing into war, don't get me wrong, but if we have solid evidence that North Korea's going to take action, then i think we have a moral obligation and an absolute right to defend ourselves."
He would not consider such a move preemptive.
"To me that would be stopping an attack that's about to happen," King said.
He warned this weekend that North Korea was not bluffing with a flurry of bellicose rhetoric and recent threats by its leader, Kim Jong Un, to wage war against the United States and South Korea.
Pyongyang has also severed a key military hotline with Seoul, declared void the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, and announced it would restart a nuclear reactor.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday the United States was capable of defending itself and would not accept North Korea as a nuclear state.
He said at a joint briefing in Washington with South Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se that what Kim Jong Un "is choosing to do is provocative. It is dangerous, reckless."
King said he gives the Obama administration credit for the tough line it has taken so far.
Combined with forceful statements in support of its allies, the United States has displayed its armed prowess during annual military training exercises with South Korea. It has flown B-2 stealth bombers capable of carrying conventional or nuclear weapons, Cold War-era B-52s and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters over South Korea.
"We have no need to panic but this is the most sustained, I would say, type of pressure or fulminations we've seen coming from the North in quite a while," King said.
He stood by his remark Sunday that North Korea is not run as a government but as a crime syndicate.
"When I made the reference to them being an organized crime family rather than a government, I was actually trying to make a serious point in that unlike the Soviet Union with whatever faults it had, it was trying to provide a society for its people," he said.
"It was a misguided society but North Korea is basically just to keep a ruling elite in place the fact that so many people have starved, the fact that people live under terrible conditions is not a government in any sense of the word," King said.
King added that he had not seen intelligence from the last several days, but "as of now there's no deployment or movement or troops or any aircraft sea power whatever that would indicate any type of an attack."