WASHINGTON — President Trump still believes in the word of North Korea leader Kim Jong-un even as South Korean and Pentagon officials confirm Pyongyang’s “strike drill” firing of tactical guided weapons over the weekend.
According to reports confirmed Monday by Pentagon officials, North Korean tested large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons. Such projectiles are not considered a threat to 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, and will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him and does not want to break his promise to me,” Trump said, in part, in a Tweet after the testing.
The White House issued a statement Sunday that said the U.S. “will continue to monitor as necessary.” The weekend tests come about one month after North Korea test-fired what it called a “new tactical guided weapon” that Pentagon officials said was likely destined for ground use.
Analysts have said the weekend tests show Kim’s frustration in the aftermath of his February summit in Hanoi with President Trump. At that summit, his request for sanctions relief was rebuffed by Trump, who insisted on the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in return.
Since then, White House and Pentagon officials have has spun the Hanoi summit as noting that no new tests have occurred, even though no steps or progress were announced at the summit. However, since the summit, private monitoring groups have reported movement by North Korea to refurbish closed missile test sites or enhance existing ones.
The projectiles were fired from the east coast of the peninsula and launched 45 to 125 miles, according to news reports. The launches would not violate the moratorium North Korea declared in November 2017 on nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile tests.
The test was first reported by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, which cited South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
During the Hanoi summit, Trump said he took Kim “at his word” when the North Korean said he knew nothing about how U.S. college student Otto Warmbier was mistreated and driven in a coma. Warmbier was eventually released to U.S. officials and died.
“I believe something very bad happened to him,” Trump said. “I don’t think leadership knew about it.”