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N Korea at crossroads

North Korean rocket triggers different tones from Trump and Abe

US leader shrugs off launch decried by Tokyo as sanctions violation

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stands in front of a rocket launcher used in his country's latest weapons test, which U.S. President Donald Trump seemed to downplay in remarks at the Group of Seven  summit in France. (KCNA via Kyodo)

BIARRITZ, France -- U.S. President Donald Trump downplayed North Korea's latest weapons test in comments Sunday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that showed the two leaders' differences over the significance of a recent spate of launches.

"I'm not happy about it," Trump said in a joint news conference with Abe on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit here. But North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is "not in violation of an agreement," he went on to say.

Trump passed the question to his Japanese counterpart, commenting that tests of short-range missiles are "really his territory."

The Japanese leader took a stronger stance.

"Our position is very clear: that the launch of short-range ballistic missiles by North Korea clearly violates the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions," Abe said. "So, in that sense, it was extremely regrettable for us to experience another round of the launch of the short-range ballistic missiles by North Korea in recent days."

But Abe stressed that he wants to make sure that he and Trump "will always stay on the same page when it comes to North Korea."

The Korean Central News Agency reported that Saturday's launch, presided over by Kim, was a test of a newly developed "super-large multiple rocket launcher." It was the latest in a string of test firings since May, when the North ended an extended hiatus on missile launches.

Trump suggested that the move was in protest of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises this month, citing a letter from Kim expressing anger about the drills.

"I don't think they were necessary, either, if you want to know the truth," he said.

Asked whether he considers the launch a violation of Security Council resolutions, Trump said he "never discussed that with [Kim] personally" and noted that Pyongyang had avoided testing of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic projectiles.

"He has done short-range, much more standard missiles. A lot of people are testing those missiles, not just him," Trump said.

"We're in the world of missiles, folks, whether you like it or not," he said.

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