POLITICS

GOP Senator Splits With Trump On North Korea: 'Those Strikes Are Disturbing'

"I am concerned," Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said. "We need to take a very strong stance."

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) on Sunday pushed back against President Donald Trump’s nonchalant response to North Korea’s recent missile strikes, calling for the U.S. to take a “strong stance” against the authoritarian regime.

National security adviser John Bolton said Saturday that North Korea violated United Nations Security Council resolutions by conducting several short-range missile tests.

But Trump, tweeting from Tokyo during his visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, downplayed the missile tests and seized the opportunity to mock one of his 2020 Democratic presidential rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” the president tweeted. “I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?”

CNN’s Dana Bash on Sunday asked Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, whether she was disturbed by the airstrikes, which Bash noted were launched “right across the sea” from Japan.

“I find them very disturbing and certainly wouldn’t trust Kim Jong Un,” Ernst said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think we need to keep our eyes on North Korea. I understand the president wants to maintain a relationship with North Korea so that we can work with them. However, those strikes are disturbing.”

Bash continued to press Ernst: “The fact that the president says they’re not, while in the region ― does it disturb you that is the president’s ... reaction?”

“Certainly,” Ernst responded. “I think Japan does have reason to be concerned. And I am concerned as well. We need to see North Korea back off of those activities and we need to take a very strong stance on that.”

“Understanding the president has a job to do in negotiating, but we do need to push back on North Korea and make sure that they are following U.N. guidelines,” she added. “We can’t continue to let them further develop any type of weapons systems.”

Bolton’s comments mark the first time a senior Trump administration official has called out North Korea for violating U.N. resolutions, as the president continues to leave the door open for denuclearization negotiations.

Japan also described the short-range missile tests as a violation of U.N. resolutions, though noted they did not land in Japanese waters.

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