By David Brunnstrom
“I think the entire North Korean WMD program, it’s in conflict with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. But what the U.S. is focused on here … is in trying to negotiate a peaceful end to the North Korean WMD program,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.
Ortagus had been asked to make clear the State Department’s position after President Donald Trump appeared to contradict his national security adviser, John Bolton, over whether North Korean launches this month had violated U.N. resolutions.
Bolton said on Saturday there was “no doubt” that the launches had violated U.N. resolutions as they had included short-range ballistic missiles.
Ortagus said the State Department had yet to share publicly its assessment of whether the launches had involved ballistic missiles. However, the Pentagon said on May 9 that launches by North Korea that day consisted of multiple ballistic missiles that flew in excess of 300 km (185 miles).
During a visit to Japan on Monday, Trump alluded to Bolton’s views and said he disagreed.
“My people think it could have been a violation … I view it differently,” Trump said, adding that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had perhaps wanted “to get attention.”
Trump stressed that there had been “no nuclear tests, no ballistic missiles going out, no long-range missiles going out” and added that one day there could be a deal with North Korea to end its nuclear program.
Asked whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed with Trump or Bolton, Ortagus said: “I don’t think it was lost on any of us that the launches were an attempt to send a message to the administration.”
She added that the United States wanted denuclearization talks with North Korea to continue. “That’s our focus here,” she said.
After two failed summits between Kim and Trump in the past year, North Korea test fired several rockets and missiles this month, including several guided missiles that experts said could be used to penetrate South Korean and U.S. defenses in the region.
The missiles flew on a flattened, lower-altitude trajectory, leading some officials in South Korea to question whether they should be categorized as “ballistic missiles” and therefore a violation of U.N. resolutions.
North Korea in a statement on Monday denounced Bolton as “more than ignorant” and said giving up missile tests would mean giving up the right to self-defense and that “whatever is launched is bound to fly drawing a ballistic trajectory.”
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)