Trump says Kim made 'small apology' for missile tests

AFP , Saturday 10 Aug 2019

President Donald Trump walks down the steps of Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Trump will be vacationing at his golf club in New Jersey for a week. (Photo: AFP)

US President Donald Trump said Saturday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had apologized over a recent spate of missile tests and wants to resume denuclearization talks as soon as US-South Korean military exercises end.

Trump, hours after North Korea carried out the fifth such test in two weeks, tweeted that Kim made these statements in a letter to him. Trump said he looks "forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future!"

"In a letter to me sent by Kim Jong Un, he stated, very nicely, that he would like to meet and start negotiations as soon as the joint U.S./South Korea joint exercise are over," Trump wrote.

The exercises began Monday and are due to last another week. North Korea has said the recent short-range missile tests are designed to protest the war games.

On Saturday, Trump again seemed to side with Kim by criticizing the exercises, which are a cornerstone of US-South Korean military cooperation.

"It was a long letter, much of it complaining about the ridiculous and expensive exercises. It was also a small apology for testing the short range missiles, and that this testing would stop when the exercises end," Trump said.

Trump has appeared determined to secure a denuclearization agreement with North Korea ahead of next year's presidential elections in the US, despite faltering talks since he first met Kim in a historic ice-breaking summit in Singapore in June 2018.

Even after their abortive second summit in February, Trump has been reluctant to criticize the North Korean leader.

In June he offered an olive branch by meeting Kim in the Panmunjon truce village in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, becoming the first sitting US president ever to step inside the North.

On Friday, Trump said the missile launches were not important.

"I'll say it again. There have been no nuclear tests. The missile tests have all been short-range. No ballistic missile tests, no long-range missiles," Trump said.

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