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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - This Saturday, May 4, 2019, file photo provided by the North Korean government shows a test of weapon systems, in North Korea. North Korea’s test of what appears to be new short-range ballistic missile may not have been a direct threat to the United States, but experts warn it’s almost certainly an omen of bigger problems on the horizon. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

TOKYO -- North Korea's short-range missile test over the weekend has been quickly downplayed by Trump and his top advisers, who noted it was not the kind of long-range missile that leader Kim Jong Un has refrained from launching since 2017.

Trump tweeted Monday that he had spoken with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "concerning North Korea and Trade." He did not provide additional information, but said "Very good conversation!"

Over the weekend, Trump was also reassuring about North Korea's intentions, tweeting Saturday that Kim "knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me."

North Korea's ruling party newspaper showed Kim supervising the drill from a camouflaged tent with a desk and computer screens monitoring a rocky offshore outcropping that was used as a target. One photo has him smiling broadly while a screen shows the top of the crag enveloped in a ball of flames.

It also showed the missile rising from a mobile launcher and stressed how the drill was "organized without an advance notice" to underscore the need for realistic combat readiness.

The North's media has centered its attention on the portrayal of Kim as a strong leader on the global stage seeking to free the country of what the North calls unjustified sanctions so that it can develop its economy. Denuclearization is almost never the main topic of its reports.

The sudden activity on the North's east coast, complete with fiery photos of a purported bull's eye out to sea, alarmed Washington's regional allies and suggests that Kim's missiles are improving even as the Trump administration wrestles with how to get him back to the negotiating table.

There remains some uncertainty over what was tested.

South Korea's military reported that various "projectiles" flew from 44 to 149 miles before splashing harmlessly into the Pacific. The activity prompted the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan to tweet on its official account -- in all capital letters -- "MISSILE INBOUND."

The tweet was soon followed by an all clear, and an "enjoy your Saturday."

Kim and Trump continue to claim they have a good personal relationship.

But tensions have grown since they failed to make any deals during their most recent summit, in Hanoi in February. Kim and senior North Korean officials have since expressed open frustration with what the North claims is an inflexible and unrealistic posture at talks by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes North Korea's recent launches only "increase tensions in the region" and calls for continued dialogue to advance peace and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Kim suggested last month that he intends to give Washington until the end of the year to change its negotiating strategy. If it doesn't, he has warned, he will seek a different path.

A Section on 05/07/2019

Print Headline: North Korean drill tests deal talks

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