Trump downplays North Korea launches on Japan visit

World | 26 May 2019 5:36 pm

US President Donald Trump on Sunday played down recent missile launches by North Korea as he teed off a state visit to Japan with a round of golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Before hitting the course, Trump tweeted that North Korea had tested "some small weapons" that had "disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me".

This appeared to be a reference to one of his "people", National Security Advisor John Bolton, who had said the previous day there was "no doubt" the launches had contravened UN Security Council resolutions.

But Trump said: "I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me." The American president maintains that North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un had pledged he was serious about denuclearisation although experts say there is still a wide gulf between the two sides over what that means exactly.

At their summit, Trump and Abe are likely to touch on tensions with North Korea, which have mounted after a summit in February in Hanoi collapsed without an agreement, as well as trade as Tokyo and Washington attempt to thrash out a deal.

On trade, Trump tweeted that "great progress" was being made in the negotiations but "much will wait" until after Japanese upper house elections expected in July -- with rumours rife Abe might also call a snap general election at the same time.

The serious diplomacy starts on Monday, when Trump will be the first leader to meet Japan's new emperor, Naruhito, who has been on the Chrysanthemum Throne for less than a month following his father's historic abdication.

But Sunday was more about cementing diplomatic bonds between the two countries over the leaders' shared passion for golf -- the fifth time they have found time in their schedules for a round.

After the golf, the two leaders took in the final day of the sumo "basho" or tournament in Tokyo. Trump presented Japanese grappler Asanoyama with the "President's Cup" - weighing 27 to 32 kilograms and measuring 1.4 metres. 

(AFP)

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