North Korea missile tests could upend Trump-Kim diplomacy, GOP lawmakers warn

May 5, 2019

North Korea’s latest round of weapons launches could represent a game-changer in President Trump’s ongoing diplomatic push to reach a denuclearization deal with Pyongyang, top Republican lawmakers said over the weekend in a warning to the White House.

“I appreciate the historic efforts President Trump and his team have made to solve the North Korean nuclear threat peacefully. The president has been personally engaged in an unprecedented manner and shown a willingness to find a win-win solution,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, tweeted late Saturday.

“The actions taken by North Korea in restarting missile tests possibly changes the equation in a dangerous and dramatic fashion,” said Mr. Graham, a widely respected foreign policy voice within the GOP who has become a close ally and confidante of the president.

North Korean media on Sunday released footage of dictator Kim Jong Un personally observing multiple long-range rocket launches over the weekend. Mr. Kim expressed “great satisfaction” with the tests, according to state-run media in Pyongyang.

Initial assessments were that North Korea fired a single weapon late Friday, but South Korean officials later said Pyongyang had fired several “projectiles,” including a “new tactical guided weapon.”

The move the latest in a series of recent provocations by North Korea that show the country is growing impatient in denuclearization talks with Washington also comes on the heels of a meeting between Mr. Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some Republican lawmakers say that meeting, along with the weekend’s weapons tests, should send a clear message to Mr. Trump.

“Kim’s provocations after his summit with Putin tell you all you need to know about North Korea’s ‘commitment’ to denuclearization and about Putin’s ‘desire’ for peace,” Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said in a statement. “These two murderous tyrants have no interest in peace and stability. Americans must remain clear-eyed about who our friends really are and realistic about empty promises from adversaries.”

Mr. Trump has held two in-person summits with Mr. Kim aimed at securing a lasting denuclearization deal. The latest meeting, held in late February in Hanoi, ended abruptly after Pyongyang demanded full relief from U.S. economic sanctions without committing to totally abandon their nuclear weapons program.

Since then, Mr. Trump has remained optimistic the two men can eventually make an agreement. Even in the face of the weekend’s weapons tests, he reiterated that optimism Saturday.

“Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, will do nothing to interfere or end it,” the president tweeted. “He also knows that I am with him does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”