Trump downplays North Korea launches on Japan visit

Trump downplays North Korea launches on Japan visit

TOKYO-Agence France-Presse
Trump downplays North Korea launches on Japan visit

U.S. President Donald Trump on May 26 downplayed recent North Korean missile launches as he teed off a state visit to Japan with a round of golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a trip to the sumo.

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 U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who said on May 25 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 May 27, 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.    

May 26 was more about cementing diplomatic bonds between the two countries with the leaders over the leaders' shared passion for golf -- the fifth time they have found time in their schedules for a round.