While In Japan, Trump Dismisses Missile Tests That Threaten Japan
President Trump is in Japan, and while there is is dismissing the seriousness of new North Korean missile tests that threaten Japan.
President Trump is in Japan for the next several days for what amounts to mostly being a ceremonial visit rather than a substantive one. While he will be meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss ongoing trade negotiations between the two countries, most of his visit is taken up with things such as becoming the first foreign Head of State to meet with the newly crowned Emperor Naruhito and attending and awarding a trophy at a Sumo wrestling championship.
The nearly twelve hour time difference, though, hasn’t stopped the President from tweeting, and last night, which of course was actually Sunday morning in Japan, he managed to send out a tweet that most likely caused no small degree of concern among his Japanese hosts:
TOKYO — President Trump kicked off the first full day of a state visit to Japan on Sunday by playing down North Korea’s recent tests of short-range ballistic missiles, undercutting declarations by both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the president’s own national security adviser that the launches violated United Nations resolutions.
“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter from his hotel in Tokyo before a round of golf with Mr. Abe in nearby Chiba. “I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me.”
As it has pursued on-again, off-again denuclearization talks with North Korea, the United States has been focused on the North’s attempt to build nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the United States mainland.
But Japanese officials are worried about the sort of “small weapons” Mr. Trump dismissed — short-range missiles that could strike Japan and are often pointed in its direction.
As he opened a four-day visit that will focus on security, diplomacy and trade — and is filled with flourishes designed to please Mr. Trump and highlight the close ties between the two leaders — the president appeared to risk ratcheting up Japanese anxiety that any nuclear agreement with North Korea could neglect their concerns.
The North Korean missile launches “are a breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions and extremely regrettable,” Mr. Abe said in Tokyo last week.
“While cooperating closely with the U.S. and other related countries, we are planning to tackle this appropriately by strengthening enforcement of related U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
On Saturday, John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, also told reporters in Tokyo that the North Korean missile tests violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“I think the prime minister and president are going to talk about making sure the integrity of the Security Council resolutions are maintained,” Mr. Bolton said, referring to meetings between Mr. Abe and Mr. Trump scheduled for Monday.
Mr. Bolton also expressed support for the idea of a summit meeting between Mr. Abe and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, which the Japanese leader has said he would pursue without preconditions.
Mr. Abe proposed such a meeting after Mr. Trump himself had two summit meetings with Mr. Kim, the second of which, in February in Vietnam, collapsed in disagreement. But the North Korean leader has so far expressed no interest in a meeting with Mr. Abe.
Mr. Trump’s remarks on Sunday were not the first time he has appeared to undercut Mr. Bolton, who often briefs reporters on the administration’s hard-line stances on geopolitical powder kegs like Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, only to find the president walking back his assertions soon after. The two men in recent weeks have also clashed on the administration’s handling of Iran and policy in the Middle East.
“I’m the one who tempers him,” Mr. Trump said this month when reporters asked if he and his national security adviser were aligned on international affairs.
Here’s the President’s tweet:
This isn’t the first time that Trump has seemingly sought to curry favor with the Kim regime while it continues to engage in actions that, contrary to the manner in which it behaved throughout much of 2018, seems to be raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the region generally. Over the past several months, we have seen the Kim regime rebuilding missile tests sites, returning to some of the same confrontational rhetoric that was part of its repertoire up until 2018. While all of this has been going on, Trump has continued to insist that he has a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un despite the fact that their first summit was basically just a photo opportunity and the second summit in Hanoi ended up being a waste of time.
What’s most significant about Trump’s remarks last night, though, is the dismissive nature of his comments about these latest North Korean tests, which seem to have caught the region off-guard. While the rockets that were tested could never reach a place such as Guam, Hawaii, or the continental United States, they could threaten both South Korea and Japan. Indeed, one of the purposes of the meetings between Prime Minister Abe and the President is to allow Abe to press Trump on being more serious about the threat from North Korea notwithstanding the ingratiating manner in which Kim has treated Trump during their meetings. In fact, this entire State Visit is evidence that Prime Minister Abe has figured out what other world leaders have learned, that the way to influence the President is to fawn over him and stroke his ego. It worked for the Saudis, it worked for French President Emmanual Macron, and it will likely work for Japan and, in June, for the United Kingdom during Trump’s State VIsit that will include an audience with Queen Elizabeth II.
In any event, it has to be concerning to the Japanese that the President remains so dismissive to obvious threats from his “friend” Kim Jong Un even as he obviously makes provocative moves toward his neighbors. This is especially true given the fact that Trump has shown his contempt for other long-standing allies over the past two and a half years. These comments won’t help the Japanese concern that they could have the rug pulled out from under them if Chairman Kim manages to sucker this President into making a deal that ends up leaving our allies in the Pacific at risk.