May 29, 2019
President Donald Trump seems to be distancing himself from friends and foes, alike. He is isolating himself from the nation’s longtime allies abroad—and even from his own advisers—regarding America’s relationship with North Korea, as he avidly insists that his denuclearization talks with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un will prevail going into his 2020 reelection bid.
The widening gap was apparent on Monday morning, May 28, Politico reported, when Trump disagreed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a joint news conference, when asked about recent North Korean missile tests.
Abe had called the tests of several short-range ballistic missiles “quite a regrettable act,” that violated a United Nations Security Council resolution; echoing language that Trump’s own National Security Adviser, John Bolton, had used on Saturday,.
However, Politico noted, the president on Monday, at the end of his short trip to Japan to meet the new emperor, insisted that he was not “personally” bothered by the tests and was “very happy with the way it’s going” in his efforts to engage North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Notably, Trump said he did not think the tests violated the U.N. resolution.
“My people think it could have been a violation,” Trump said. “I view it differently.”
It was a striking break that revealed Trump’s desire to retain a talking point he has long used at rallies—that he’s responsible for pulling America back from the brink of nuclear war with North Korea, the political news outlet said. It’s a stance that has been increasingly difficult to maintain as talks between Washington and Pyongyang appear to have broken down after two summits between the two countries’ leaders.
It’s also clear, Politico reported, that Trump sees the issue almost singularly through the lens of his personal relationship with Kim.
Kim, Trump said, “is looking to create a nation that has great strength economically. … He knows that, with nuclear, that’s never going to happen. Only bad can happen. He understands that. He is a very smart man. He gets it well.”
Since then, North Korea has paused its nuclear weapons testing, pushing the United States to ease up on sanctions in exchange for the minimal steps it has taken to denuclearize. Trump balked at such a deal in February and ended his second summit with Kim early.
Fearful of the threat that North Korea’s missiles posed to Japan, Abe has long courted Trump on the issue. On Monday, Abe praised Trump for breaking “the shell of distrust” with Kim and announced that he, too, would hold a summit with the North Korean leader. But even after saying the United States and Japan were “the same” on North Korea, he reiterated that North Korea had violated a U.N. Security Council resolution. “It is of great regret,” he said.
The divergent remarks came after Trump on Sunday appeared to brush back his own national security adviser on Twitter.
“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,” the tweet read.
The tweet came shortly after Bolton had confirmed for the first time that the administration had “no doubt” the missile tests violated international resolutions.
In recent weeks, Trump has privately joked about Bolton’s hawkish impulses: As a private citizen, Bolton advocated for a preemptive strike on North Korea and advocated for regime change in Iran. Publicly, Trump has even said that he “tempers” Bolton’s more aggressive instincts.
Trump will return to Japan next month for a meeting of the world’s top economies.
Research contact: @politico