This article has been updated to include comments from Stephan Haggard
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday played down the significance of North Korea’s recent missile launches, though admitted the tests could be a violation of UN resolutions.
Commenting via social media, Trump dismissed the significance of the DPRK’s recent tests for the second time in two days, continuing Washington’s stance that the ongoing tests would not affect the United States’ willingness to negotiate.
“Kim Jong Un and North Korea tested 3 short range missiles over the last number of days. These missiles tests are not a violation of our signed Singapore agreement, nor was there discussion of short-range missiles when we shook hands,” Trump said.
“There may be a United Nations violation, Chairman Kim does not want to disappoint me with a violation of trust, there is far too much for North Korea to gain – the potential as a Country, under Kim Jong Un’s leadership, is unlimited.”
The U.S. President added that he “may be wrong”, but added that he believed Kim to be sincere about having a “vision for his country.”
Trump’s comments indicate a different perspective from when North Korea first tested short-range ballistic missiles in May this year, when the U.S. president appeared to break with his advisors.
“My people think (the May missile tests) could have been a violation,” Trump said at the time. “I view it differently.”
The comments ran counter to those of then acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan who assessed the launches of short-range ballistic missiles to be a breach of UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCR) on the DPRK.
“Let me just be clear: these were short-range missiles. Those are a violation of the UNSCR,” Shanahan said on May 29.
But this time round Trump appears more united with his senior staffers, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. National Security advisor John Bolton both similar issuing statements, urging North Korea to return to working-level talks.
When asked how patient Washington was willing to be given the North Korean tests violate UN resolutions, Pompeo on Friday once again indicated the U.S. was committed negotiations and said that communications were ongoing.
“The Trump team—clearly at the president’s direction—is clearly taking a low-key attitude toward the recent tests, effectively dismissing them,” Stephan Haggard, director of the Korea-Pacific Program at IR/PS, told NK News.
“The timing of the last test was clearly linked to the presence of Secretary Pompeo at the ARF, where he reiterated continued U.S. interest in negotiating. The problem at this moment is that the two sides do not appear to actually be talking. How long does Kim Jong Un choose to posture before coming back to the table? With the forbearance on the U.S. side, it certainly seems that the ball is in Pyongyang’s court.”
Trump’s latest comments follow two North Korean launches this week and another test on July 24. With North Korea on Wednesday local time testing what was later revealed to be a new type of multiple launch rocket system (MLRS).
“The U.S. and ROK have analyzed the specifics of the projectile and see that it is likely to be a new type of short-range ballistic missile,” Blue House spokesperson Ko Min-jeong said in a statement on Friday KST.
Seoul added that the most recent launch on Friday morning KST appears to have the same “flight characteristics” of Wednesday’s launch, adding that the U.S. and South Korea are set to “conduct additional detailed analysis on the particulars of the specifications.”