U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told reporters Saturday that North Korea defied U.N. resolutions with recent missile tests.
“U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from firing any ballistic missiles,” Bolton said. “In terms of violating U.N. Security Council resolutions, there is no doubt about that.”
President Donald Trump, Bolton’s boss, arrived in Japan and quickly undercut Bolton, defended the North Korean test, and attacked his domestic political opponents.
He said on Twitter that he was not disturbed by the “small” tests and still had confidence that Kim Jong Un, the rogue state’s dictator, “will keep his promise to me.”
North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2019
The same day, he told Politico in an interview that “They’re short-range and I don’t consider that a breach of trust at all. And, you know, at some point I may. But at this point no.”
This is not the future envisioned by Trump even three months ago.
At this year’s State of the Union Address, Trump took credit not only for the fact that North Korea had, at that time, held off missile testing for 15 months, but also for the United States not being in a “major war” with North Korea.
“Our hostages have come home, nuclear testing has stopped, and there has not been a missile launch in 15 months,” he said before Congress. “If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea.”
Before Trump adopted his public stance of praise and camaraderie with Chairman Kim, he viewed North Korean missile tests entirely differently.
In 2017, this is how Trump spoke about a North Korean missile test, calling it an example of “great disrespect” for China.
North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile…but China is trying hard!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2017
But once Kim and Trump had their summit in Singapore and Trump thought he got an assurance that North Korea would fully denuclearize (something that has not happened nor shows any sign of happening in the near future), the president has expressed a surprising amount of public trust in Kim.
On Sunday, kicking off his four-day trip to Japan, Trump did not just defend North Korea’s missile testing. The president of the United States also took the opportunity to attack his political opponents while on foreign soil.
In the same tweet praising Kim, Trump said he “smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual & worse.” The president, instead of choosing not to comment, or even defending the former Vice President Biden from promoted a personal attack made by an authoritarian dictator, said he smiled.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders doubled down on Trump’s position when asked about the tweet on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday morning, telling Chuck Todd, that while she wouldn’t say that he was “siding” with Kim, “I think they agree in their assessment of former Vice President Joe Biden.”
In 2017, Trump called Kim “Rocket Man” in a speech in front of the United Nations, and Kim responded, calling him a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” (a dotard is an obscure word for someone who is senile). Kim also likened Trump’s speech to “the sound of a dog barking.”
Trump has a history of being gullible when dealing with authoritarian leaders around the world. In addition to North Korea’s Kim, Trump has taken the assurances of people like Russian President Vladimir Putin over America’s intelligence officials about interference in the 2016 election, and Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte over his draconian drug policy.