Senate Armed Services committee member Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, diverged from President Trump Sunday on the topic of continued North Korean missile tests, The Hill reports. Ernst made her remarks during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, where she said that she found recent tests to be disturbing and she expressed distrust of North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un.
“I find [the recent tests] very disturbing, and certainly wouldn’t trust Kim Jong Un,” Ernst said. “I think we need to keep our eyes on North Korea, I understand the president wants to maintain a relationship … so that we can work with them. However, those strikes are disturbing.”
Her comments were in response to a weekend tweet from Trump in which the president doubled down on the faith he has in Kim, even going so far as to indicate that while some of his team were troubled by the actions of North Korea, he was not.
“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me,” the tweet read in part. Trump’s message continued on to criticize former vice president and current presidential hopeful Joe Biden, suggesting that he and Kim were in agreement of their assessment of “low IQ” Biden.
The President of the United States praises a brutal, evil dictator for criticizing a fellow American.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) May 25, 2019
It's not funny. It's scary. It's unpatriotic. Trump's not playing chess. He's just putting his own interests above the nation's interests. Again. https://t.co/Mwrr5XXAEP
When CNN specifically asked if Ernst found Trump’s comments words disturbing, she replied simply.
“Certainly,” she said.
Ernst went on to agree that Japan would likewise have reason to be concerned and that the United States needed to demonstrate strength in putting an end to the North Korean testing activity. Trump’s remarks on Twitter were made while he was in Japan for a diplomatic visit.
The Iowa senator also acknowledged that the president has a challenge in front of him in terms of negotiating with the historically difficult Kim and that perhaps stronger pushback was appropriate when dealing with the North Korean leader.
Trump has remained consistently optimistic in his public remarks about North Korea, generally indicating that he is working towards denuclearization on the Korean peninsula while touting his positive relationship with Kim as a central part of that strategy.
However, as it stands, Trump and Kim have now gotten together for two in-person summits to negotiate and have yet to put together a tangible deal on denuclearization or sanctions, including addressing North Korea’s compliance with United Nations guidelines barring the Asian country from firing ballistic missiles.