Trump brushes off concerns over N. Korea missile tests

By Park Han-na
  • Published : May 26, 2019 - 16:03
  • Updated : May 26, 2019 - 17:55

US President Donald Trump on Sunday downplayed the potential danger of North Korea’s missile launches in early May, just a day after national security adviser John Bolton called the tests a clear breach of UN resolutions.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump tweeted during a four-day state visit to Japan that started Saturday.

US President Donald Trump (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe smile before playing a round of golf at Mobara Country Club in Mobara, south of Tokyo, Sunday. (AP-Yonhap)

On May 9, North Korea tested two short-range missiles, which fell into the East Sea between the country and Japan. This followed the launch of a short-range missile May 4 under the supervision of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. 

Talks between Trump and Kim about Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons have been at a standstill since they failed to reach an agreement during their second summit in Hanoi in February.

Kim has maintained a moratorium on missiles and nuclear testing since the country test-fired Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles in late November 2017.

South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and its Defense Ministry have been cautious about identifying the May 9 projectiles “ballistic missiles,” as this could lead to calls for additional sanctions against North Korea.

“I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me,” Trump also said in the tweet.

At a press conference in Tokyo on Saturday, Bolton’s attitude toward the North’s recent moves stood in sharp contrast to Trump’s: Bolton identified the projectiles as “ballistic missiles” and said the tests violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The UN resolutions prohibit the launch of any ballistic missiles, Bolton said. North Korea’s test firings included short-range ballistic missiles, he added, so there was “no doubt” it was a violation, and he urged Kim Jong-un to return to the denuclearization talks.

On Friday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesman accused the US of trying to shift the blame for the collapse of the Hanoi summit and warned that nuclear talks would never resume unless Washington adopted a new approach.

Tensions between the two countries escalated last week after North Korea publicly criticized the US’ “extreme hostile policy” in response to the seizure of its cargo ship, the Wise Honest, which allegedly violated UN and US sanctions by carrying North Korean coal destined for export.

North Korea’s ambassadors to the UN and the UN in Geneva -- Kim Song and Han Tae-song, respectively -- urged the US to immediately release the vessel at a media conference and in an interview with Reuters.

Bolton called the US seizure “appropriate” and said it may be a good time to discuss the return of the USS Pueblo, a naval intelligence ship held by the North since 1968.

By Park Han-na (