TOKYO — President Trump said Monday that he was not “personally” bothered by North Korea’s short-range ballistic missile launches this month and again undercut his national security adviser, saying he does not believe North Korea’s recent missile tests violate the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“My people think it could have been a violation,” Trump said, in a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “I view it differently.”
Trump was responding to a question about a tweet he sent Sunday shortly after arriving in Japan, in which he said that while some in his administration were “disturbed” by North Korea’s recent missile launches, he himself was not.
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Just a day earlier, the president’s national security adviser, John Bolton, had told reporters there was “no doubt” that North Korea had violated the Security Council resolutions by firing off short-range ballistic missiles.
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“I view it as a man — perhaps he wants to get attention, and perhaps not, who knows,” Trump continued, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “It doesn’t matter. All I know is that there have been no nuclear tests, there have been no ballistic missiles going out, no long-range missiles going out.”
Trump portrayed the North Korean dictator as a leader who believes, as the president himself does, that his country has “tremendous economic potential” but understands he can’t develop it while still pursuing his nuclear ambitions.
“He knows that with nuclear, that’s never going to happen, only bad can happen,” Trump said. “He understands, he is a very smart man, he gets it.”
The president — a former real estate developer — also cast Kim’s opportunities through the lens of his previous passion. North Korea, the president said, is “located between Russia and China on one side, and South Korea on the other. It’s all waterfront property. It’s a great location, as we used to say in the real estate business.”
In an earlier tweet, Trump had also seemed to side with Kim against former vice president Joe Biden — the Democratic candidate for president about whom he and his aides currently are most worried. In that missive, Trump wrote that he appreciated a recent comment by North Korea state media criticizing Biden, adding “Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?”
North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2019 Pressed about seeming to choose a brutal dictator over a fellow American, Trump doubled down on his initial tweet. “Well, Kim Jong Un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low IQ individual,” he said. “I think I agree with him on that.”
Bolton and the U.S. ambassador to Japan, William Hagerty — both sitting to the side — chuckled slightly at Trump’s put-down of the former vice president
[ North Korea has been testing ballistic missiles. So why won’t Trump use the B word? ]
Abe has been keen to play down his differences with Trump over North Korea and stressed that the two countries’ positions were “the same.” He said Trump had “broken the shell of mistrust” with Kim, and shared his vision of a bright future.
But even Abe could not bring himself to agree with Trump when it came to the missile launches
“On May 9th, North Korea launched short-range ballistic missiles, and that’s a violation of the U.N. Security Council’s resolution, so, as I have been saying, this is quite a regrettable act,” he said
President Trump and Emperor Naruhito hold a discussion while their wives accompany them during the Trumps’ state call at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Monday. (AP/AP) Earlier Trump became the first foreign leader to meet Japanese Emperor Naruhito since he ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne at the beginning of the month, something he described as a “profound honor.” On Saturday, he was the guest of honor on the final day of a sumo tournament, presenting a specially made “President’s Cup” to the winner
So far, Japan’s attempt to court and flatter Trump during this four-day state visit appears to be paying off. Talking to the media before his summit discussions with the Japanese leader, Trump described Abe as a “truly amazing prime minister,” and Japan as a “really interesting and fabulous place.”
“We understand each other very well, we’re very committed to each other as nations, so we have a situation where we have the best relationship that we’ve ever had with Japan, and we’re going to keep it that way,” he said
Crucially for Japan, Trump signaled that a trade deal between the two nations — something he has been impatient to deliver — will be delayed until after July’s Upper House elections in Japan. He said the two leaders would “get the balance of trade straightened out rapidly,” adding that an announcement would come “probably in August.”
Trump wants to see Japan cut tariffs for U.S. agricultural products, after the United States’ withdrawal from the 11-nation Trans Pacific Partnership left U.S. exporters at a disadvantage. He has also threatened to impose 25 percent tariffs on foreign cars, although he declared this month he would delay imposing them for 180 days to allow room for negotiations on restricting import volumes
But Abe’s constant reminders to Trump that Japan’s car companies have poured money into the United States, including in regions dominated by Republican voters, also appear to be paying off
Abe said Japanese companies had invested $24 billion since Trump came to office and would create 45,000 jobs, adding that energy companies had reacted to Trump’s “tax reform” by deciding to invest in Michigan, Alabama, Kentucky and other states
The U.S. president echoed that sentiment Monday
“Since I’m president, many auto companies have announced and have actually built and are building plants in the United States,” he said. “Unprecedented amounts of dollars are being invested in plants . . . in the United States, including many car companies.”
He also boasted that Japan was one of the world’s top purchasers of American defense equipment and would be buying 105 “brand new F-35 stealth aircraft — stealth because the fact is you can’t see them,” to give the country the largest F-35 fleet of any U.S. ally
But Trump said he believed a trade deal could be reached that would “benefit both our economies” and reduce the U.S. deficit
“We have an unbelievably large imbalance as you know, trade imbalance, which has been there for many years, Japan having the big advantage,” he said. “They are brilliant businesspeople, brilliant negotiators, and they put us in a very tough spot. But I think we will have a deal with Japan.”
Trump also backed Abe’s efforts to mediate between the United States and Iran, with the prime minister reported to be planning a visit there next month
“I do believe Iran would like to talk and if they want to talk we’d like to talk,” Trump said. “I know for a fact the PM is very close with the leadership of Iran, and we’ll see what happens. Nobody wants to see terrible things happen, especially me.”
Trump climbs into a sumo ring to present a 60-pound ‘President’s Cup’ on Japan trip
Trump arrives for ceremonial visit to Japan, but Iran and North Korea also loom
Trump appears to contradict Bolton on North Korea, expresses ‘confidence’ in Kim
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