US plays down concerns over North Korean missile tests

Missiles no threat to US, South Korea or Japan, Pompeo says

A photograph released by North Korea on Sunday shows rocket launchers firing during a test of weapons in an undisclosed location in North Korea on Saturday. Photograph: KCNA/KNS/AFP/Getty Images

A photograph released by North Korea on Sunday shows rocket launchers firing during a test of weapons in an undisclosed location in North Korea on Saturday. Photograph: KCNA/KNS/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Trump administration played down concerns about North Korea’s weekend missile test which has raised questions about Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearisation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration remained committed to negotiating with North Korea, despite confirmation from the regime that it had tested multiple rocket launches – the first in more than a year. He said the missiles had “landed in the water east of North Korea and didn’t present a threat to the United States or South Korea or Japan”.

“We have high confidence that they were not intermediate-range missiles, that they were not long-range missiles or intercontinental missiles,” he added in an interview on Sunday. “We are continuing to evaluate that data set but we want to put in the larger context we still have every intention to negotiate with North Korea to get them to denuclearise. We’ve known it would be a long path we know it wouldn’t be straight forward.”

Trump tweet

President Donald Trump struck a similar note on Saturday, repeating his belief that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would strike a deal with the United States. “Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it,” he tweeted. “He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”

A summit between the US and North Korean leaders in Vietnam in February ended without agreement after the US side rejected a proposal from North Korea to ease economic sanctions in exchange for the closure of some nuclear facilities. It was the second face-to-face meeting between the two former adversaries, following months of recriminations over social media and other channels.

Mr Trump said at the time that the US was not prepared to lift all of its sanctions on North Korea, though there were disputed reports about what North Korea had asked for during the meeting. Talks between the two sides have stalled since the February meeting, though the North Korea threat is likely to be a key focus during Mr Trump’s two forthcoming trips to Japan.

Mueller

Meanwhile, there were reports that special counsel Robert Mueller would testify before a House of Representatives committee on May 15th. Mr Mueller presented his final report on Russian election interference last month, but its reception has been mired in controversy after attorney general William Barr chose to present a four-page summary of its findings to Congress before releasing a redacted version of the report last month. In a letter to Mr Barr, the special counsel raised concerns that the summary “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of his findings, and caused “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation”.

Mr Mueller, a former FBI chief who conducted a 22-month investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by Mr Trump, has rarely spoken in public since he began his investigation.

Mr Trump, who spent the weekend at the White House and at his golf course just outside Washington, also announced that he planned to appoint Mark Morgan as the next head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Mr Morgan is widely seen as a hardliner on immigration and has in the past supported Mr Trump’s controversial proposal for a border wall.

Mr Trump tweeted about a variety of issues over the weekend, including his phone call with Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Kentucky Derby horse race, and a threat to increase tariffs on China to 25 per cent ahead of trade talks this week.