US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe showed their differences over the seriousness of North Korea’s series of short-range missile launches yesterday, while maintaining that they would remain in synch on the issue.
Trump, who prizes his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said the launches did not violate an agreement and were in line with what others were doing.
Asked if he was concerned about North Korea’s missile launches, Trump said: “I’m not happy about it, but again, he’s not in violation of an agreement.”
Abe said the launches breached UN resolutions.
Launches of short-range ballistic missiles on Saturday were the seventh by North Korea since Trump and Kim met at the border between the two Koreas in June.
The launches have complicated attempts to restart talks between US and North Korean negotiators over the future of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
Trump has staked enormous political capital on personal diplomacy with Kim in a so-far unsuccessful effort to persuade the dictator to give up his nuclear weapons arsenal.
The latest missile tests could further thwart the resumption of the negotiations, which have been stalled since a second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February collapsed without an agreement.
Meanwhile, South Korea yesterday began two days of war games to practise defending disputed islands off its east coast against an unlikely attack from Japan, further stoking tensions between the Asian neighbours.
The annual drills come just days after Seoul terminated a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, with the countries at loggerheads over Japan’s use of forced labour during World War II.