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Donald Trump and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe 'responded to North Korea missile test in crowded Mar-a-Lago dining room'

Incident is US President's first major foreign policy crisis 

Will Worley
Monday 13 February 2017 11:31 GMT
Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago, shortly after an unorthodox national security meeting
Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago, shortly after an unorthodox national security meeting (AP)

Donald Trump crafted his response to a North Korean missile test in the crowded dining room of the Mar-a-Lago club, as waiters and diners looked on.

Pyongyang fired the ballistic missile on a high arc into the sea early on Sunday, the first test of President Trump's vow to get tough on isolated North Korea, which tested nuclear devices and ballistic missiles last year at an unprecedented rate.

The launch has been met with widespread condemnation, with China stating the root cause of the action is Pyongyang's friction with the US and South Korea.

It has also drawn intense scrutiny from outside weapons experts because of North Korea's claim to have used solid fuel, which, if true, would be a big step forward in the hermit state's quest to boost its ability to attack the US and its close allies, South Korea and Japan.

Now, it has been claimed that Mr Trump, who was hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Florida residence when news of the launch emerged, did not leave his dinner table while he discussed his tactical response with advisers.

Other diners were reportedly able to listen in as they continued eating.

Because of the mood lighting, phone flashlights were reportedly used by the President’s team to read highly secure documents on North Korea - which had fired a powerful Musudan rocket into the Sea of Japan around an hour before.

Abe and Trump condemn North Korea's latest missile launch

Critics have said his unorthodox response left national security vulnerable to spies and surveillance.

Diners were apparently even able to take photos. One image posted to social media – showing controversial adviser Steve Bannon hovering behind Mr Trump – claims to capture the scene.

The photo, which has not been verified, shows Mr Trump apparently looking relaxed.

Other photos were also posted to Facebook.

Despite the security sensitivities of such discussions, Mar-a-Lago club members remained at their tables and were able to fully observe the event, which they described to CNN.

They said even as the activity and personnel around the table increased, waiters continued to serve other diners.

Mr Trump’s response was quickly criticised. On Twitter, Chelsea Clinton said: “How many of Mar-a-Lago's new members will be (already are?) members of foreign intelligence agencies and media organisations?”

Others used the photo to contrast Mr Trump’s approach with the former President.

Many of the high paying club members – it costs $200,000 to be part of the Mar-a-Lago set – now apparently see their membership as a chance to mingle with the First Family.

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