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Trump Defends Kim, Downplays Concern About North Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump and his national security adviser are publicly at odds about the seriousness of the threat

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Trump, Kim, North Korea, Defends
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump upon his arrival at Mobara Country Club in Mobara, Chiba prefecture, Japan, May 26, 2019. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump and his national security adviser are publicly at odds about the seriousness of the threat currently posed by North Korea.

In a Sunday morning tweet from Tokyo, Trump issued a retort to John Bolton who the previous day here had told reporters that there was “no doubt” North Korea’s recent test firing of short-range ballistic missiles violated a United Nations resolution.

Bolton’s remark was the first by a U.S. official describing the North Korean launches as a violation of U.N. resolutions.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons which disturbed some of my people and others, but not me,” said Trump in his tweet.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un meet during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Sofitel Legend Metropole hotel in Hanoi, Feb. 28, 2019. VOA

But some analysts say the missile launches are indeed a concern.

“It’s pretty clear the missile launch was a violation of U.N. sanctions, whatever the range. The reality is that U.S. forces and civilians in South Korea and Japan are already in range of North Koreans missiles, so accepting shorter or mid-range missiles puts the United States at risk, not to mention our allies Japan and the Republic of Korea,” Kevin Maher, a Washington security consultant and a former head of the State Department’s Office of Japan Affairs, told VOA. “These realities are inconvenient if the objective is to show a personal relationship with the dictator Kim Jong Un will stop North Korea’s continuing nuclear and missile programs.”

The U.S. president also expressed confidence the North Korean leader “will keep his promise to me” in moving toward denuclearization.

In the tweet, Trump also said he smiled when Kim called former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden “a low IQ individual.”

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The initial presidential tweet misspelled the Democratic Party presidential contender’s name as “Bidan” and was later replaced. And it was not Kim who made the disparaging remark about Biden, rather an unsigned commentary carried by North Korea’s central news agency, which referred to the American politician as a “fool of low IQ” and an “imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being.”

Trump concluded his tweet by stating that perhaps Kim was trying “to send me a signal” — apparently a reference that the leader in Pyongyang prefers to negotiate with the current American president over the opposition party’s top-polling contender.

Trump and Kim have held two summits, in Singapore and Hanoi. Neither has led to any significant breakthroughs, although the meetings were seen as reducing tensions between the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations and whose leaders had never met before.

The United States and North Korea were belligerents in a three-year war in the early 1950s that devastated the Korean Peninsula. It ended with an armistice, but no peace treaty has ever been signed.

Bolton comment

Bolton, who 13 months ago replaced retired Army General H.R. McMaster as the president’s national security adviser, is known as a hardliner who distrusts Pyongyang’s intentions.

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe play golf at Mobara Country Club in Mobara, Chiba prefecture, Japan May 26, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. VOA

North Korea has a long track record of violating international agreements and has repeatedly defied U.N. sanctions against its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Trump fired off his tweet shortly before taking a helicopter from Tokyo to the Mobara Country Club in nearby Chiba prefecture.

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Japanese Prime Minister Abe, dressed in a blue blazer and white pants, rolled up in a golf cart to meet Trump, who was wearing a red jacket and carrying a red hat in his hand.

After some hours on the golf course, the two leaders viewed bouts of sumo before the U.S. president awarded the large and heavy President’s Cup (quickly nicknamed the Trump Cup’) to champion Asanoyama, a 177-kilogram (390-pound) wrestler who clinched the Summer Grand Tournament the previous day.

Trump, Kim, North Korea, Defends
U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to present the President’s Cup to wrestler Asanoyama, the winner of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokigikan Sumo Hall in Tokyo, May 26, 2019.U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to present the President’s Cup to wrestler Asanoyama, the winner of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament at Ryogoku Kokigikan Sumo Hall in Tokyo, May 26, 2019. VOA

“That was an incredible evening at sumo,” Trump told reporters as he and first lady Melania Trump joined Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe for dinner at a Tokyo restaurant where the food is served on long paddles. Trump said he personally “bought that beautiful trophy, which you’ll have hopefully for many hundreds of years.”

Trump on Monday meets Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito, who hosts a state dinner for the visiting president that evening. In between, Trump holds a formal meeting with Abe in which they are expected to discuss trade and defense matters.

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No quick breakthrough on trade is expected, although both leaders have expressed a desire for a bilateral trade pact after Trump pulled the United States out of the comprehensive 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership, which Tokyo had spearheaded with Washington under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

Following the golf outing, Trump tweeted that no trade deal would be made until after July’s elections for some of the seats in the upper house of Japan’s Diet (parliament).

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U.S. President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, receives a plate of food from a chef as they and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie Abe have dinner in Tokyo, May 26, 2019. VOA

Later at dinner, the president said, “the prime minister and I talked a lot today about trade and military and various others things. I think we had a very productive day.”

Before Trump departs Japan on Tuesday, he is to visit the naval base at Yokosuka to tour a Japanese helicopter carrier and address American service personnel in conjunction with the U.S. Memorial Day holiday (observed Monday). (VOA)

Next Story

Trump to Pursue Higher Sales Age for Vaping Devices: ‘An Age Limit of 21 or So’

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details

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President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Nov. 8, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump said Friday his administration will pursue raising the age to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 in its upcoming plans to combat youth vaping.

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details.

“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” said Trump, speaking outside the White House.

Currently the minimum age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product is 18, under federal law. But more than one-third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age to 21.

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FILE – A woman buys refills for her Juul at a smoke shop in New York, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

A federal law raising the purchase age would require congressional action.

Administration officials were widely expected to release plans this week for removing virtually all flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Those products are blamed for soaring rates of underage use by U.S. teenagers.

However, no details have yet appeared, leading vaping critics to worry that the administration is backing away from its original plan.

Trump resisted any specifics on the scope of the restrictions.

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“We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working — there are some pretty good aspects,” Trump said.

Mint flavor

Underage vaping has reached what health officials call epidemic levels. In the latest government survey, 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month.

Fruit, candy, dessert and other sweet vaping flavors have been targeted because of their appeal to underage users.

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FILE – A man blows a puff of smoke as he vapes with an electronic cigarette, Oct. 18, 2019. VOA

On Thursday, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker, announced it would voluntarily pull its mint-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. That decision followed new research that Juul’s mint is the top choice for many high school students who vape.

With the removal of mint, Juul only sells two flavors: tobacco and menthol.

Vaping critics say menthol must be a part of the flavor ban to prevent teens who currently use mint from switching over.

‘Tobacco 21’ law

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Juul and other tobacco companies have lobbied in support of a federal “Tobacco 21” law to reverse teen use of both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products. The effort also has broad bipartisan support in Congress, including a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The logic for hiking the purchase age for cigarettes and other products is clear: Most underage teens who use e-cigarettes or tobacco get it from older friends. Raising the minimum age to 21 is expected to limit the supply of those products in U.S. schools.

Delaying access to cigarettes is also expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades.

Still, anti-tobacco groups have insisted that any “Tobacco 21” law must be accompanied by a ban on flavors, which they say are the primary reason young people use e-cigarettes. (VOA)