Trump plays down North Korea’s missile test, putting him at odds with Abe
President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday he doesn’t view North Korea’s short range missile tests as disturbing, a view deeply at odds with his Japanese hosts and in conflict with statements made a day earlier by his national security adviser.
“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
This is a major blow ahead of his meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which are set to begin in a few hours.
The Japanese government has said North Korea’s recent test of short range missiles violated UN resolutions — a determination that national security adviser John Bolton agreed with in Tokyo on Saturday during a briefing with reporters before Trump arrived in Japan.
In his tweet, Trump went on to say he smiled when North Korea called former Vice President Joe Biden a low IQ individual.
“I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Bidan (sic) a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?”
Trump breaks with Bolton and Abe on North Korea’s missile tests
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted two tests of short-range ballistic missiles, ending an 18-month break in provocations. Many analysts viewed the tests as (literal) warning shots to Trump that Pyongyang is very, very unhappy that months of nuclear talks have produced few tangible results.
The two tests prompted Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton to tell reporters in Tokyo on Saturday that there was “no doubt” North Korea violated United Nations resolutions barring such launches, effectively making the case that they were a severe provocation.
But Trump, who has spent months trying to strike a nuclear deal with Kim, brushed those concerns aside.
“My people think it could have been a violation, as you know. I view it differently,” Trump said, with Bolton sitting only a few feet away during the joint press conference with Abe. “There have been no ballistic missiles going out,” he continued, going against even the Pentagon’s assessment. “There have been no long-range missiles going out. And I think that someday we’ll have a deal. I’m not in a rush.”
The Japanese prime minister had a different take, though. “North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile. This is violating the Security Council resolution,” Abe said. “So my reaction is, as I said earlier on, it is of great regret,” he continued, making sure still to give credit to Trump for engaging diplomatically with Kim.
That moment was, to put it mildly, troubling.
Japan, a staunch US ally, is the country that is among the most directly threatened by North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile programs. North Korea views Japan, its former colonizer, as a mortal enemy, and many of the missiles the country tests land near — or even fly directly over — Japan (although the last two tests didn’t threaten Japan at all).
At a time like this, the US president would normally stand firmly alongside the Japanese prime minister and state unequivocally that North Korea should stop conducting tests of weapons that could kill thousands of Japanese people. Instead, Trump’s avid desire for a deal with Kim led to a massive break in Washington and Tokyo’s position on a top national security issue for both capitals.
Put together, Monday’s press conference was an unmitigated disaster for Trump. It would be an extraordinary event if it weren’t already so ordinary.
Remember Trump said North Korea promised him no more missile launches, after their 2018 summit.