WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday he is concerned about the spate of short-range missile tests North Korea has launched in recent weeks, disagreeing with President Donald Trump, who has shrugged off their significance.
"I wish that they would not" launch the missiles, the top U.S. diplomat told CBS News.
North Korea has carried out six short-range ballistic missile tests since late last month, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un saying they were in response to ongoing joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that North Korea considers as a threat to its existence.
The two latest projectiles, fired last Friday, flew 230 kilometers into the waters off North Korea, but, aimed differently, could reach South Korea, as well as American troops and civilians living there.
Kim has said talks with the U.S. about the denuclearization of North Korea could resume once the military drills end later this month, but has balked at new negotiations with South Korea.
Trump has voiced his discontent as well, not about North Korea's missile tests, but about the costs of the military drills with Seoul.
Asked about the missile tests, Trump told reporters, "I have no problem. These are short-range missiles."
Trump called the missiles "smaller ones." He said earlier this month that Kim had sent him "a really beautiful letter" that included a "small apology" for conducting the missile tests.
The U.S. leader has held out hope that he can bring about Pyongyang's denuclearization by the time his first term in the White House ends in January 2021.
Pompeo acknowledged in the CBS interview, however, that the United States and North Korea "haven't gotten back to the table as quickly as we would have hoped" to continue the nuclear weapons talks.
Pompeo said the U.S. knew "there will be bumps along the way" in the negotiations.
"We hope Chairman Kim will come to the table and get a better outcome" than by maintaining North Korea's nuclear arsenal, he said.
"It will be better for the North Korean people," Pompeo concluded. "It'll be better for the world."