Trump plays down latest North Korea missile tests

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday downplayed recent missile tests by North Korea and flattered the country’s leader as a friend with a “great and beautiful vision for his country,” as the U.S. tries to lure Kim Jong Un back to nuclear talks.

Trump’s series of three tweets — which take great pains to excuse the actions of a man he once dismissed as “Little Rocket Man” — shows just how much the president has riding on North Korea. Despite widespread skepticism that Kim will give up his prized nuclear weapons program, Trump regularly touts his personal diplomacy with Kim as a great success.

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

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

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Trump said Kim can only achieve his “great and beautiful vision for his country” if he is the U.S. president.

“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!”

Trump has frequently called his diplomacy a success and said the U.S. would have been war with North Korea if he hadn’t made a breakthrough with Kim.

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

Trump’s chief U.S. envoy to North Korea, Stephen Biegun, had hoped to meet 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, Biegun met with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts to discuss prospects for resuming the stalled denuclearization negotiations with the North.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said earlier Friday that he wished North Korea had sent its foreign minister to the meeting. But he also expressed optimism that talks would resume soon.

“I always look forward to a chance to talk with him,” 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.”

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 Trump’s second summit with Kim in Vietnam in late February.

Trump and Kim met again in June at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. After that, U.S. 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 denuclearization of North Korea — and to do so through the use of diplomacy,” Pompeo said Friday.

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