Sunday 15 September 2019

Wary Japan at odds with US as North Korea tests more missiles

Applause: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un smiles in front of a launcher used to test-fire a missile at an undisclosed location in the secretive nation. Photo: AP
Applause: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un smiles in front of a launcher used to test-fire a missile at an undisclosed location in the secretive nation. Photo: AP

Jeff Mason

The US and Japan were at serious odds yesterday over North Korea's latest test-firing of short-range missiles at the weekend.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisted that such tests are in breach of international agreements.

But Donald Trump, who prizes his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, insisted the launches did not violate agreements and were in line with what others were doing.

"He hasn't been doing nuclear testing. He has done short-range, much more standard missiles.

"A lot of people are testing those missiles, not just him," the US president said.

Asked whether he was concerned by the latest launches, Mr Trump said: "I'm not happy about it, but again, he's not in violation of an agreement. Kim Jong-un has been pretty straight with me.

The missile launch. Photo: AP
The missile launch. Photo: AP

"He likes testing missiles but we never restricted short-range missiles. We'll see what happens."

However, Mr Abe was adamant that the latest launch had in fact breached UN resolutions.

The launches were the seventh by North Korea since Mr Trump and dictator Mr Kim met at the border between the two Koreas in June.

Asked whether he wanted Mr Trump to move closer to his position on the issue, Mr Abe said: "I would like to make sure that we, meaning myself and President Trump, will always stay on the same page when it comes to North Korea."

Mr Abe added that he supported the continuing US-North Korea dialogue.

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.

North Korea announced that the country's leader had personally supervised the test-firing of a "newly developed super-large multiple rocket launcher".

It was another demonstration of Pyongyang's growing arsenal, apparently aimed at increasing its leverage ahead of a possible resumption of nuclear talks.

The official Korean Central News Agency, KCNA, said that the weapons test had been successful and quoted Mr Kim as having said that the rocket launcher is "indeed a great weapon".

Mr Kim wants to "continue to step up the development of Korean-style strategic and tactical weapons for resolutely frustrating the ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of the hostile forces," KCNA added. The "hostile forces" likely referred to the US and South Korea, whose regular military drills have infuriated North Korea.

The North has called the drills an invasion rehearsal and conducted a slew of missile and rocket tests in response.

Nuclear negotiations with the US, which have been largely at a stalemate since the second summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in Vietnam in February fell apart due to squabbling over US-led sanctions on North Korea.

South Korea's military said North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday morning, and that they flew about 380km.

On August 1, North Korea said it tested a large-calibre multiple rocket-guided system, a day after South Korea said the North fired two short-range ballistic missiles.

Irish Independent

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