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Trump downplays North Korea missile launches

Sunday, May 26, 2019

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TOKYO,Japan(AFP) — US President DonaldTrumpSunday downplayed recent North Korean missile launches as he teed off a state visit to Japan with a round of golf and a trip to the sumo with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Before his official schedule began,Trumptweeted that North Korea had tested "some small weapons" that had "disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me".

This appeared to be a reference to US National Security Advisor John Bolton, who said Saturday there was "no doubt" the launches had contravened UN Security Council resolutions.

ButTrumpsaid: "I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me."

The American president maintains that North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un has pledged he is serious about denuclearisation, although experts say there is still a wide gulf between the two sides over what that means.

Trumpand Abe's talks are expected to touch on tensions with Pyongyang, which have mounted after a summit in February in Hanoi collapsed without an agreement, and trade negotiations as Tokyo and Washington attempt to thrash out a deal.

On trade,Trumptweeted that "great progress" was being made but "much will wait" until after Japanese upper house elections expected in July — with rumours rife Abe might also call a snap general election at the same time.

Theserious diplomacy starts on Monday, whenTrumpwill be the first foreign leader to meet Japan's new emperor, Naruhito, who has been on the Chrysanthemum Throne for less than a month following his father's historic abdication.

Sunday was about cementing diplomatic bonds between the two countries through the leaders' shared passion for golf and a chance forTrumpto see one of Japan's most famous sports -- sumo.

Trumpentered the hallowed Ryogoku Kokugikan sumo stadium to loud cheers — and a few scattered boos — with spectators standing to take photos as the US president waved and smiled.

He and his wife Melania, accompanied by Abe and his wife Akie, sat in special seats a few rows from the sumo ring.

Front-row seats at the sumo are usually on the floor, but the two couples were given modified seats with backs, and were ringed by security personnel.

Trumplooked serious as he listened to explanations from Abe and others around him about the bouts between the sport's top wrestlers.

The US leader then presented tournament winner, Japanese wrestler Asanoyama, with the "President's Cup," a specially made trophy weighing 60-70 pounds (27-32 kilograms) and measuring 54 inches (1.4 metres) that was unveiled to an audible murmur of appreciation from the audience.

A set of wooden steps leading up to the raised "dohyo" sumo ring were installed for Abe andTrumpto walk up, with both leaders donning shiny black slippers to enter the space, which is considered sacred.

Trumpread in English from a scroll, offering Asanoyama the cup "in honour of your outstanding achievement", before lifting the massive trophy with the help of a sumo official and presenting it to the wrestler with an enormous grin.


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