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Be frank with Bolton

Mar 26,2018
The Blue House tried to downplay the appointment of John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nation, as the new national security adviser, by claiming that it was President Donald Trump who would be spearheading the upcoming talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Its reasoning is not wrong. But it is also true that the presidential adviser on national security designs the framework of North Korea policy.

A figure who has persistently championed military action to tame Pyongyang is expected to advise Trump to go tough in his talks with Kim and not be deceived into agreeing to a deal of a weapons freeze and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the South, or a peace treaty.

Seoul authorities must not take lightly the recruitment of a hard-line figure as the top negotiator in White House.

Bolton has repeatedly called for military action against North Korea over the last 20 years. He now claims that was just tough rhetoric. But few doubt he has changed his fundamental stance that Washington should resort to tough action if it is fooled by Pyongyang again.

The Blue House so far took comfort in the smooth relationship between Chung Eui-yong, head of the National Security Office, and his former U.S. counterpart H.R. McMaster.

It must work towards establishing similar confidence with his replacement regardless of his tougher character and opinions. The fastest way to do that is by being frank on all the important issues of the day.

Seoul must convince Pyongyang that the upcoming summit meetings between the two Koreas and Pyongyang and Washington are its last chance to rise above isolation and join the international community.

The hawkish security chief would never allow any behind-the-scenes deals. Seoul must remember that any misstep would not only hurt the future of the two Koreas but also our relationship with our traditional allies.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 26, Page 30.