U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday once again dismissed concerns over North Korea’s recent short-range missile tests, while also not ruling out further meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar while on an overseas trip, the U.S. President also waded in on recent reports of purges in the DPRK.
“There hasn’t been testing of anything major, and frankly there hasn’t been any nuclear testing,” Trump said.
The U.S. President added that he looked forward to meeting Kim at “an appropriate time,” and reiterated that the North Korean leader was interested in making a deal with Washington over the country’s nuclear program.
Other assessments of North Korea’s missile tests from Washington indicated that the launches broke UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR), though Trump has repeatedly indicated they wouldn’t affect Washington’s stance in negotiations.
“Let me just be clear, these were short-range missiles. Those are a violation of the UNSCR,” Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said last week.
The U.S. President later said via social media that the launches “disturbed” some of his staffers, though not him.
Trump also referenced the recent reports that several high ranking North Korean officials had been purged for the failure of the U.S. – Hanoi summit earlier this year.
Top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol appeared in public alongside Kim at a musical performance on Sunday, despite reports that he was among those who were punished for the summit’s failure.
“One of the gentlemen who we deal with … is somebody that we know well. He’s a strong man, he’s a strong person. And they like to blame Kim Jong Un immediately, and they say he was killed, but he wasn’t killed, he was at the theater the other night,” Trump said.
Trump did not specify if he was referring to press reports or U.S. government sources, and added that he didn’t know anything about the other “four people.”
Previously, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was investigating the reports, though had nothing to announce as of March 31.
“We’ve seen the reporting to which you are referring,” he said. “We’re doing our best to check it out. I don’t have anything else to add to that today,” Pompeo said.
Trump’s comments come despite no apparent progress towards further diplomatic reconcilement since both sides walked away from the negotiating table in the Vietnamese capital in February.
North Korean media also appears to have reverted to more strident language, threatening to pull out of negotiations on Tuesday.
“The fate of the June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement will not be promising if the U.S. fails to carry out its obligation and keeps resorting to anti-DPRK hostile policy,” North Korea’s foreign ministry said via the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Pyongyang added that Washington “has become ever more undisguised during the past year in its scheme to annihilate us by force while deliberately turning its face away from” implementing the agreement from the Singapore summit.
Edited by James Fretwell
Featured image: White House