WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s ex-national security adviser, John Bolton, warned Monday that Kim Jong Un has no intention of relinquishing his nuclear arsenal and seemed to rebuke the president for being too weak on North Korea as he pursues another U.S.-North Korea summit.
“Kim Jong Un … will do whatever he can to keep his nuclear weapons capacity and to enhance it further,” Bolton said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank. Bolton, a hawk who clashed with Trump over U.S. policy toward North Korea, Afghanistan and other matters, left the White House earlier this month.
After Bolton’s departure, Trump said his former national security adviser was “way out of line” with his administration’s foreign policy goals and repeatedly slammed the veteran diplomat for his handling of North Korea and other matters.
Bolton, in his first public remarks since leaving the Trump administration, said on Monday he was now free to give an “unvarnished” view of the threat posed by North Korea.
He said North Korea, with its repeated testing of short-range missiles, is violating UN Security Council resolutions. The Trump administration’s response seems to be “we really don’t care,” Bolton said.
Because of an inconsistent message, Bolton added, “we open ourselves and our policy to failure.”
Trump has downplayed the short-range missile tests and made it clear he is willing to meet again with Kim, despite three previous one-on-one sessions that have not produced any concrete agreement.
Bolton also warned against an incremental deal with North Korea – in which the U.S. agrees to partial sanctions relief in exchange for partial steps by North Korea to dismantle its program. Kim’s government wants that approach and some Trump administration officials have said they’re open to a step-by-step deal, rather than demanding a full, speedy dismantling of North Korea’s entire weapons program.
Bolton said a partial lifting of sanctions that allows North Korea to keep some of its nuclear capability will only feed the regime’s economy and allow Kim to sustain his authoritarian regime. Bolton raised the prospect of “regime change” as one possible, if unlikely, way to deal with the threat.
Bolton said if North Korea is not forced to relinquish its arsenal, Kim could even begin to sell nuclear weapons to other rogue leaders, increasing the global threat of nuclear war.
“The DPRK could become the new … the Walmart or Amazon of deliverable nuclear weapons,” Bolton said.
“These are the questions that should focus our attention, not can we get another summit with Kong Jung Un or what the state of staff-level negotiations are to achieve a commitment from North Korea (that) it will never honor.”