WASHINGTON/SEOUL: U.S. President Donald Trump sought again Friday to play down North Korea’s three tests in eight days of short-range missiles, saying they did not break any agreement he had with Kim Jong Un and he was sure the North Korean leader did not want to disappoint him.
In an apparent reference to Kim’s pledge not to resume testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs frozen since 2017, Trump said on Twitter: “Chairman Kim does not want to disappoint me with a violation of trust.”
“There is far too much for North Korea to gain - the potential as a Country, under Kim Jong Un’s leadership, is unlimited. Also, there is far too much to lose,” said Trump, who has taken to flattering Kim while also maintaining tough sanctions on the totalitarian country.
Stressing the personal rapport he says he has built with Kim in three meetings since June last year, Trump said: “He will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump!”
Despite Trump’s words, North Korea has embarrassed the U.S. president by testing the missiles even though Kim and Trump agreed at a June 30 meeting to revive stalled denuclearization talks. The talks have yet to resume, and policy analysts believe the tests are designed both to improve North Korean military capabilities and to pressure the U.S. to offer more concessions.
A summit between Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February collapsed after the two sides failed to reconcile differences between U.S. demands for North Korea’s complete denuclearization and Pyongyang’s demands for relief from sanctions.
Trump said Friday that the short-range tests “may be a United Nations violation,” but he and Kim had never discussed such missiles.
North Korean short-range missiles do not pose a threat to U.S. territory, but they do put at risk U.S. allies Japan and South Korea and the tens of thousands of U.S. troops stationed there.
Testing of such missiles is covered by a 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that North Korea suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program.
U.S. officials are still hoping to revive talks with North Korea. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in Bangkok for regional meetings, said Friday that while the diplomatic process might have some bumps, conversations with North Korea were “going on even as we speak.”
A senior State Department official briefing reporters called the North Korean launches “provocations,” but said such acts had always been part of Pyongyang’s negotiating playbook.
“We’re expecting in the not too distant future, we’ll be back in a sustained negotiating process,” the official said. He said no time or place had been set for new talks.