WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA —
U.S. President Donald Trump went to one of his golf courses on the Florida Atlantic coast Sunday for a second consecutive day, following an eventful week that included his much-scrutinized summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which he ordered cruise missiles launched at a Syrian airbase.
White House officials were tight-lipped about the president’s activities Saturday and Sunday, which were known to have included time on the golf course and a long phone call, the second in a span of four days, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In the most recent conversation, which lasted 45 minutes, Abe told reporters he and the U.S. president “frankly exchanged opinions about North Korea and Syria following Thursday’s U.S. Navy strike on a Syrian airfield that was believed to be the launch site for last week's chemical attack on civilians in rebel-held territory that killed dozens, including children.
The two leaders “completely agreed on the importance of solidarity among the United States, Japan and South Korea regarding North Korea’s increasing ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development threats," Abe said.
The White House, in its statement released Sunday about the previous day’s call, said Trump thanked Abe for his support of the U.S. missile strikes and they “also agreed to further cooperation on a range of regional issues, including the threat posed by North Korea.”
Dispatching navy forces to Korean peninsula
The U.S. Defense Department announced late Saturday the Pacific Command had ordered a U.S. Navy strike group (USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier) to head towards the Korean peninsula.
This is “a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” a command spokesman, Navy Commander Dave Benham told VOA. “The number-one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”
The diversion of the naval strike force from a scheduled cruise to Australia, following a port call in Singapore, comes after several recent missile test firings into the eastern waters of the Korean peninsula by North Korea and amid preparations for what would be the isolated and impoverished nation’s sixth underground nuclear weapons test.
Trump, according to administration officials, informed President Xi during their meetings last week that if China was not successful in dissuading North Korea from further provocative actions, the United States is prepared to take action on its own.
According to data compiled by The Washington Post, Trump, who repeatedly criticized his predecessor for golf outings, has been on the fairways once every 5.3 days, compared to Barack Obama’s pace of every 8.8 days.
Despite repeated inquiries from VOA and other news organizations traveling with the president, the White House issued no detailed information on Trump’s activities during his five hours both Saturday and Sunday at the Trump International Golf Club. But a CNN videographer spotted the commander-in-chief on the links on Saturday.
A source told VOA that Trump played 18 holes Saturday. On Sunday, Trump was seen leaving his Mar-a-Lago estate clad in a white polo shirt and a red cap with “USA” lettering.
While at the golf club, Trump, on his personal Twitter account, said he was “so sad” to learn of the lethal Palm Sunday bombings of two churches in Egypt, adding he had great confidence President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi “will handle the situation properly.”
The Egyptian president ordered military deployments to guard “vital and important infrastructure” following the attacks, for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility.