President Donald Trump is isolating himself from allies and even his own advisers on North Korea, eager to insist that his denuclearization efforts will be successful going into a 2020 re-election bid.
The widening gap was starkly apparent Monday morning, when Trump publicly disagreed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a joint press conference when asked about recent North Korean missile tests. Abe had previously called the tests of several short-range ballistic missiles “quite a regrettable act” that violated a United Nations Security Council resolution, echoing language that Trump’s own national security adviser, John Bolton, had used on Saturday.
But the president insisted that he was not “personally” bothered by the tests and was “very happy with the way it’s going” in his efforts to engage North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Notably, Trump said he did not think the tests violated the U.N. resolution.
It was a striking break that revealed Trump’s desire to retain a talking point he has long used at rallies — that he’s responsible for pulling America back from the brink of nuclear war with North Korea.
Trump said Kim Jong Un “is looking to create a nation that has great strength economically. … He knows that, with nuclear, that’s never going to happen. Only bad can happen. He understands that. He is a very smart man. He gets it well.”
Trump also drew attention during his news conference with the Japanese Prime Minister trumpeting a derisive comment Kim made about Joe Biden, Trump’s potential Democratic rival in 2020. “Well, Kim Jong Un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-IQ individual,” he said, breaking with a tradition by U.S. presidents to not engage in politics on foreign soil. “He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that.”