Sunday 15 September 2019

Donald Trump praises ‘friend’ Kim Jong Un after flurry of missile tests

The president insists the North Korean leader will not violate trust.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, equipped with binoculars, supervises a rocket launch test (AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, equipped with binoculars, supervises a rocket launch test (AP)

By Matthew Lee and Deb Riechmann, Associated Press

President Donald Trump bestowed praise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following a flurry of short-range missile tests that rattled the region and lowered expectations for the resumption of nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

Mr Trump issued a three-part tweet reflecting an approach to North Korea that emphasises personal diplomacy.

Despite widespread scepticism that Mr Kim will give up his nuclear weapons programme, Mr Trump is attempting to coax Mr Kim back into negotiations with flattery and by offering to help him achieve a better economic future for his country.

Mr Trump tweeted that North Korea’s recent tests of short-range missiles were not part of the commitments he and Mr Kim made at their historic June 2018 summit in Singapore, although he conceded they might be in violation of a UN resolution.

“There may be a United Nations violation, but Chairman Kim does not want to disappoint me with a violation of trust,” Mr Trump tweeted.

“There is far too much for North Korea to gain – the potential as a Country, under Kim Jong Un’s leadership, is unlimited.”

Mr Trump continued to praise Mr Kim in his tweets, saying he has a “great and beautiful vision for his country”.

Mr Trump said that only if he is president can Mr Kim realise that vision.

“He will do the right thing because he is far too smart not to, and he does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump!”

People watch a TV showing a file footage of a North Korea’s missile launch in Seoul, South Korea (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

The North’s new missile launches came as the United Kingdom, France and Germany, following a closed UN Security Council briefing, condemned the North’s recent ballistic activity as violations of UN sanctions and urged Pyongyang to engage in “meaningful negotiations” with the United States on eliminating its nuclear weapons.

Mr Trump’s chief US envoy to North Korea, Stephen Biegun, had hoped to meet on Friday in Thailand with a representative of North Korea.

But North Korea stayed away from the annual gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has served as a venue for their talks in the past.

Unable to meet with a North Korean official, Mr Biegun met with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts to discuss prospects for resuming stalled denuclearisation negotiations with the North.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said earlier that he wished North Korea had sent its foreign minister to the meeting.

But he also expressed optimism that talks would resume soon.

Singapore Government pool photo from the US–North Korea summit in the country (Kevin Lim/Strait Times/PA)

“I always look forward to a chance to talk with him,” Mr Pompeo told an audience at the Siam Society.

“I wish they’d have come here.

“I think it would have given us an opportunity to have another set of conversations, and I hope it won’t be too long before I have a chance to do that.”

Mr Pompeo said diplomacy is often fraught with “bumps” and “tos and fros”, but stressed that the Trump administration remains willing to restart the talks, which broke down after Mr Trump’s second summit with Mr Kim in Vietnam in late February.

Mr Trump and Mr Kim met again in June at the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea.

After that, US officials expressed hope talks would resume in a matter of weeks.

Despite that hope, the negotiations have remained stalled.

“We are still fully committed to achieving the outcome that we have laid out, the fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea, and to do so through the use of diplomacy,” Mr Pompeo said on Friday.

PA Media

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