PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Already in a domestic battle over his immigration order, President Donald Trump now faces a fresh foreign provocation in his first weeks in office — an apparent ballistic missile test by North Korea.
After a stormy start on the diplomacy front, Trump has shown evidence of more traditional approach of closely cultivating a relationship with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The countries’ long-standing ties were reinforced after word came Saturday night of the test-firing that would be North Korea’s first of the year and an implicit challenge to Trump.
The president, who was hosting Abe for a weekend visit at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, said he stood by Japan “100 percent.”
As the new administration assesses the threat from North Korea, the White House also is focusing on its options following a legal blow to Trump’s immigration order suspending the nation’s refugee program and barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.
Some answers about the way ahead may come later Sunday from Stephen Miller, the chief policy adviser who helped craft the order. He was scheduled to appear on four news shows.
The administration maintains that all options are on the table, including a Supreme Court appeal. But Trump said on the plane ride down to Florida on Friday that he was considering signing a “brand new order” as early as Monday to try to bypass the legal challenges.
Trump’s trip to Mar-a-Lago had begun as a bonding session with Abe. For most of the day Saturday, Trump and the Japanese prime minister played golf under the Florida sun to get to know one another and show the world the U.S.-Japan alliance remained strong. Then events in Asia provided a more significant example of cooperation.
After North Korea reportedly launched a ballistic missile, the two leaders appeared for hastily prepared statements in a ballroom of Trump’s south Florida estate. Abe spoke first and longest.
“North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable,” Abe said through a translator. He added that the North must comply fully with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, but also noted that Trump had assured him that the U.S. supported Japan.
“President Trump and I myself completely share the view that we are going to promote further cooperation between the two nations. And also we are going to further reinforce our alliance,” he said.
Trump followed Abe with even fewer words, saying in part: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.” With that, they left the room.
With Abe’s early Sunday departure from Florida, Trump tweeted that the leaders had held “two days of very productive talks.”
In the opening days of his presidency, Trump’s diplomacy had a rocky stretch that included contentious phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia. In contrast, the first visit by a foreign leader at his Mar-a-Lago estate was a friendly weekend of meetings, dinners and golf that suggested the new president was willing to invest time in developing close personal relationships with leaders he feels he can work with.
Trump and Abe, both frequent golfers, left Mar-a-Lago early Saturday morning and headed north to one of Trump’s golf courses in Jupiter, Florida. Reporters and photographers from both countries did not catch a glimpse of the pair as they played. But Trump later posted a photo of them giving each other a high-five on the golf course and tweeted, “Having a great time hosting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the United States!”