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Trump dismisses aides’ worries about missiles

May 27,2019
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed concerns about North Korea’s recent missile provocations expressed by experts and officials of his own administration, tweeting that the tests only involved “small weapons” that did not alarm him.

Amid his visit to Japan for a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump took to Twitter to claim that the North’s test launches earlier this month “disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me.” The president then reiterated his “confidence that [North Korean leader] Chairman Kim [Jong-un] will keep his promise,” as he had done multiple times over the past year, as denuclearization negotiations with the North crawled to a stalemate.

Trump’s words directly contradict the concerns laid out by his national security adviser, John Bolton, who, a day earlier, said the North’s test launches on May 4 and 9 were “no doubt” violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, since he claimed they involved short-range ballistic missiles. Neither the president nor U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought up the resolutions in their reactions to the North’s tests, which they tried to downplay by suggesting there was no “breach of trust” or threat to Washington or its allies.

Bolton further urged Kim to return to negotiations, though he added Washington’s position has not changed since the failed U.S.-North summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February. Since then, the North has published a series of aggressive propaganda pieces against the United States in addition to its two recent missile tests. These efforts are believed to be aimed at pressuring the United States to compromise in its insistence on so-called “final, fully verified denuclearization.”

In line with Trump’s visit to Tokyo, Bolton also suggested Kim should hold a summit with Abe, which he claimed “could be substantive assistance” to move forward discussions on the North’s nuclear program. In a meeting with the families of Japanese citizens allegedly abducted by North Korea, Abe said he was willing to meet Kim “unconditionally” to resolve the kidnapping issue.

Bolton went on to brush aside the North’s demand last week that Washington return its cargo ship impounded by the United States for carrying banned material. He sardonically commented that “maybe now is an appropriate time to talk about the return of the U.S.S. Pueblo,” a U.S. naval intelligence ship captured by the North in 1968.

Though Bolton again demonstrated his hard-line approach to Pyongyang in his remarks to reporters on Saturday, his boss showed he was willing to put his personal beliefs ahead of the concerns that prevail among members of his own administration.

In the same tweet on Saturday, Trump appeared to compliment Kim, saying that he had “smiled when [the North] called Swampman Joe Bidan (sic) a low IQ individual, & worse,” in reference to a North Korean state media’s attack on former U.S. Vice President Biden last Tuesday.

An editorial by the Korean Central News Agency, a state mouthpiece, called Biden a “fool of low IQ” and a “snob bereft of elementary quality as a human being,” using the type of aggressive language that Trump has often employed to attack his political rivals.

“Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?” Trump added.

An official from South Korea’s presidential office declined to comment on the contradictory political messages coming from the United States on the North’s launches, merely saying there was no change in the official joint stance of the allies. Regarding Bolton’s labelling of the North’s projectiles as “ballistic missiles,” the official stressed that Trump’s tweet deserved closer scrutiny.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]


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