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Trump doesn't condemn N. Korea over missile launches

U. S. President Donald Trump (AP)
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus (Kyodo)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday did not condemn North Korea for launching two new short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan.

Speaking to Fox News, Trump said North Korea has not tested missiles other than "smaller ones," and that he is getting along "very well" with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In his first reaction to the launches earlier Thursday, Trump said, "They haven't done nuclear testing. They really haven't tested missiles other than you know smaller ones."

The remarks came after the State Department urged Pyongyang to refrain from further provocations.

"We urge no more provocations," department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said at a press briefing, as she expressed hope that the two sides will promote negotiations to address North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

"We want to have diplomatic engagement with the North Koreans," Ortagus said. "We continue to press and hope for these working-level negotiations to move forward."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said separately that the door remains open for diplomacy with North Korea despite Thursday's launches, and that he hopes working-level talks will begin as early as August.

"President Trump has been incredibly consistent here: We want diplomacy to work," Pompeo said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. "If it takes another two weeks or four weeks, so be it."

Pompeo described the launches as more of a negotiating tactic than a move that would create a rupture or lead Trump to reverse his commitment to talks with Kim.

"Everybody tries to get ready for negotiations and create leverage and create risk for the other side," he said. "We remain convinced that there's a diplomatic way forward, a negotiated solution to this."

Thursday's launches came less than a month after Trump and Kim agreed to restart denuclearization talks that stalled after their meeting in February in Hanoi.

In their talks on June 30 in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, Trump said he and Kim agreed to each designate a team to work out details.

"What would be most productive is for Chairman Kim and all his staff and for President Trump and his staff to continue upon the path that was laid out for us both in Vietnam and the DMZ, and that is a diplomatic resolution and the end of North Korea's nuclear weapons," Ortagus said.

She was referring to Kim's title as head of the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

Ortagus added that sanctions "will remain in effect" until the United States achieves the goal of denuclearizing North Korea.

The spokeswoman suggested Pompeo is unlikely to hold talks with North Korean officials during his visit to Thailand next week for Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related foreign ministerial meetings.

"There's no component to announce on the trip as it relates to North Korea," she said. "We don't have any announcements about meetings with North Koreans."

Ortagus declined comment on news reports that North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho has cancelled his attendance at the ASEAN Regional Forum, a 27-member security forum, slated for Aug. 2 in the Thai capital.

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