North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un walks to greet Donald Trump at the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone (DMZ) on June 30, 2019. 
Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Trump shrugs at North Korean missile tests, evidence of growing threat

Updated

For the better part of the year, Donald Trump has insisted, in multiple forums, that North Korea hasn’t engaged in any recent missile testing, despite multiple examples of North Korean missile testing. Late last week, the American president tweaked his position, but only a little.

“[T]hey are short-range missiles, and many people have those missiles,” Trump said, adding that the recent launches involve “very standard missiles.”

It was a strange argument. For one thing, the Republican was effectively admitting that his recent assertions about the absence of tests was wrong. For another, according to our South Korean allies, the latest North Korean tests have featured a new kind of missile, not “very standard” ones.

But even putting those relevant details aside, the question of whether “many people have those missiles” is beside the point. “Many people” aren’t facing U.N. Security Council resolutions, but Trump’s friend in Pyongyang is – and according to Trump administration officials, North Korea is violating those resolutions with its missile tests.

But when a reporter noted to Trump on Friday, in reference to the North Korean missile launches, “You don’t sound too spun up about it,” the Republican replied, “Nope. Not at all.”

Trump’s passivity is hard to understand. The Wall Street Journal published a report the other day pointing to evidence that North Korea’s scientists “have ramped up production of long-range missiles and the fissile material used in nuclear weapons.”

Shipping containers, trucks and crowds of people moving materials and instruments at North Korea’s key weapons facilities like the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center and the Sanum-dong missile production site, suggest North Korea has continued producing fissile material and intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to analysts Jenny Town, a fellow at the Stimson Center, a think tank specialized on security issues, and Jeffrey Lewis, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a research center analyzing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

NBC News has published related reports on North Korea’s weapons programs.

Remember, Trump previously assured the world that he’d “solved” the problem posed by the rogue nuclear state, to the point that North Korea is no longer a threat.

“President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem,” Trump declared last summer. “No longer – sleep well tonight!”

The leaders’ love letters notwithstanding, is there any doubt North Korea is more dangerous now?