U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker speaks in Southaven

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, speaks to members of the Southaven Rotary Club on Thursday about national and international events.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, told a Southaven audience Thursday that joint military exercises between Japan, the U.S., South Korea and other Allies are still scheduled despite a veiled threat from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un.

The North Korean leader has said previously he would hold off on his plans to target the U.S. military protectorate of Guam if Allied Forces would cancel their joint exercise.

"We are absolutely not going to cancel our joint exercises," Wicker told members of the Rotary Club of Southaven. Wicker is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and chairs the Subcommittee on Seapower.

Kim Jong-Un had intimated he would launch ballistic missiles at or near Guam, causing a "ring of fire" around the island.

"Kim Jong-Un is unstable and thoroughly evil and dangerous," Wicker said. "But I don't think he is suicidal. If he ever attacked any aspect of the U.S., it would be the last day of his life. He is a cruel, repressive, uncivilized despot, the likes of which would make (Josef) Stalin blush."

Wicker advocated beefing up the U.S. Naval fleet to more than 355 ships and reflected upon the fact that President Ronald Reagan advocated a 600-ship Navy and helped win the Cold War with his build-up of military might.

In other matters, Wicker decried the stalling tactics of Democrats in Congress and lamented the fact that repealing and replacing Obamacare had not yet taken place.

"These (healthcare) exchanges have grossly inflated Medicaid costs," Wicker said. "We ought to be glad we're not in Alabama where it's over a 200- percent increase."

Wicker said conservatives like himself wish to slow Medicaid growth and not throw millions off Medicaid rolls.

"We also need to pass a tax cut bill," Wicker said. "I think our economy is poised to really take off."

While Wicker acknowledged the "bad news" that President Donald Trump's approval rating is 36 percent, that same selection of people polled said that 96 percent "think the economy is good."

Wicker said DeSoto County is poised for infrastructure improvements "but we've got to figure out how to pay for it."

"I like 4.3 percent unemployment but I would like for it to be lower," Wicker said. "It can get better."

Wicker later toured the Career & Technology Center-West in Horn Lake where he marveled at a prosthetic hand engineered by a 17-year-old student and chatted with future nurses and nurse practitioners.

Horn Lake Mayor Allen Latimer, DeSoto County Economic Development Council President Jim Flanagan, County Supervisor Lee Caldwell, Superintendent of Education Cory Uselton and others were on hand.

On Friday, Wicker toured the site of the new Coldwater River Bridge between Tate and DeSoto counties along U.S. Hwy. 51 which is supposed to be open by December. The older bridge was damaged by flood waters.

Those in attendance, which included Hernando Mayor Tom Ferguson, Alderman Mike McLendon, Chancery Clerk Misty Heffner, Rep. Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, District 2 Supervisor Mark Gardner and District 4 Supervisor Lee Caldwell along with Northern District Engineer Mitch Turner, stood before a large steel span of the bridge which will be set in place at the site.

Northern District Commissioner Mike Tagert was absent due to a motor vehicle accident earlier in the day which left him with an arm injury. He was said to have been transported to a Grenada hospital where he was treated for his injuries.

The steel span made its way through the Hernando Square on Wednesday as onlookers gawked at its mammoth girth.

Wicker said the new bridge is part of a major infrastructure effort being advocated by the Trump Administration. Its funding was approved last year and money was made available in the federal transportation pipeline before the changeover in administration.

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.

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