Saturday 22 July 2017

Trump surprised by N Korea's missile launch

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie with Mr Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they met at the president’s resort in Florida. Photo: AP
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie with Mr Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they met at the president’s resort in Florida. Photo: AP

Harriet Alexander

Donald Trump faced his first major foreign policy challenge as president yesterday, after the surprise launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea - tested to coincide with the visit of Japan's prime minister to the US.

Mr Trump and Shinzo Abe, his Japanese counterpart, hastily convened a press conference late to condemn the test.

A woman walks past a TV screen at a railway station in Seoul showing footage of North Korea’s missile launch. Photo: Getty Images
A woman walks past a TV screen at a railway station in Seoul showing footage of North Korea’s missile launch. Photo: Getty Images

Mr Abe called the launch "absolutely intolerable" and said North Korea must comply with UN Security Council resolutions.

Mr Trump added: "I just want everybody to understand, and fully know, that the United States of America is behind Japan, our great ally, 100pc." He declined to make any further comment.

The test was likely to have been of an intermediate-range Musudan-class missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea's military - not an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which the North has said it could test at any time.

Mr Trump has vowed to take a tougher line than Barack Obama on North Korea, criticising his predecessor for being weak.

He pledged a more assertive approach to the rogue nation, but has given no clear sign of how his policy would differ.

In January, after Kim Jong-un said the North was close to testing an ICBM, Mr Trump tweeted "It won't happen!"

Stephen Miller, senior adviser to Mr Trump, refused yesterday to say whether the missile launch crossed a "red line" for the president.

But he said the US was determined to support its allies and maintain a robust military. "We are going to reinforce and strengthen our vital alliances in the Pacific region as part of our strategy to deter and prevent the increasing hostility that we've seen in recent years from the North Korean regime," he said.

The missile was launched from an area called Panghyon in North Korea's western region just before 11pm GMT on Saturday, and flew about 500km, South Korea's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

"Our assessment is that it is part of a show of force in response to the new US administration's hardline position against the North," the South Korean military said.

China, which Mr Trump has accused of neglecting to rein in North Korea, is yet to respond.

Meanwhile, Mr Miller claimed the court ruling against Mr Trump's travel ban was nothing less than "a judicial usurpation of power".

"Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned," said Mr Miller.

The 31-year-old, who began his rapid rise to power with attacks on multiculturalism, criticism of women's protests against pay inequality, and urging against political correctness, was dispatched yesterday to hammer home the president's point of view on television chat shows.

On ABC News, he argued that James Robart, the Washington state judge who blocked the travel ban on February 3, had made his ruling for political reasons.

"A district judge in Seattle cannot force the president of the United States to change our laws and our constitution because of their own personal views," he said.

"The reality is that this is not a disagreement about the law and the constitution. This is an ideological disagreement between those who believe we should have borders and should have controls and those who believe there should be no borders and no controls. That's the essence of this debate.

"And the bottom line is the president's powers, in this area, represent the apex of executive authority."

On NBC News, he continued to vigorously assert his boss's point of view, arguing: "We've heard a lot of talk about how all the branches of government are equal. That's the point. They are equal. There's no such thing as judicial supremacy. What the judges did was to take power for themselves that belongs squarely in the hands of the president of the United States."

The president has promised to fight on, with the next steps possibly announced as early as today.

He has four options, including returning to the lower courts; asking the appeals court that upheld the block on the ban to reconsider; taking it the matter to the Supreme Court; or writing a new executive order.

Bob Ferguson, the attorney general for Washington state who brought about Judge Robart's halting of the ban, also vowed to fight on, saying yesterday he will call on White House officials to reveal "what truly motivated" President Trump's executive order on immigration if the case he brought against it goes to trial. (Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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