President Trump, Japanese PM Abe Express Close Ties After North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — For most of the day President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe used golf under the Florida sun to show the world the U.S.-Japan alliance remained strong. Then events half-a-world away provided a more significant example of cooperation.

After North Korea reportedly launched a ballistic missile, the two leaders appeared for hastily prepared statements in a ballroom of Trump’s south Florida estate. Abe spoke first and longest, though his statement was terse.

“North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable,” Abe said through a translator. He added that the North must comply fully with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, but also noted that Trump had assured him that the U.S. supported Japan.

“President Trump and I myself completely share the view that we are going to promote further cooperation between the two nations. And also we are going to further reinforce our alliance,” he said.

Trump followed Abe with even fewer words, saying in part: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.” With that, they left the room, a surprise of sorts given that the usually outspoken Trump neither condemned nor denounced the launch.

In the opening days of his presidency, Trump’s diplomacy had a rocky stretch that included contentious phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. In contrast, the first visit by a foreign leader at his Mar-a-Lago estate was a friendly weekend of meetings, dinners and golf that suggested the new president was willing to invest time in developing close personal relationships with leaders he feels he can work with.

The president and first lady Melania Trump hosted a delegation dinner with Abe and his wife on Saturday night at his Mar-a-Lago estate. At the time Trump ignored a shouted question about the North Korea launch. Focusing on the positive, he said the Abe visit had been “very, very good” and that he and the Japanese leader “got to know each other very, very well” over their two days of meals, meetings and golfing.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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