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Bolton accuses North of buying time with talks

Mar 27,2018
John R. Bolton, an American hard-liner on North Korea policy who was named President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser last week, accused Pyongyang of trying to “slow-roll the negotiations” with Washington to buy more time for its nuclear weapons development, saying the regime had only a “limited number of things” to do to strike the United States with nuclear warheads.

“I think we have to look at what North Korea’s motivation is here,” Bolton, a former ambassador to the United Nations, said Saturday during an interview with Cats Roundtable, a radio podcast. “I think they’re very worried that they’ve got a different president in the White House…They’re worried about the pressure that the president has already put on.”

Bolton, who served as a Fox News commentator, said the sooner Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the better it would be.

The U.S. should have a “very straightforward” discussion with the North and have it explain “very concretely” about how it’s going to denuclearize itself, he continued. “The sooner we get to it and cut through the chase, the better.”

Ending months of speculation that Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster would be fired due to personality and policy differences with Trump, the president tweeted last Thursday that Bolton would be his new national security adviser starting April 9. The replacement came after Trump agreed to meet with Kim by the end of May, though exactly when and where has not yet been decided.

Bolton told Fox News last Thursday, shortly after the Twitter announcement, that his past comments as a private citizen were “behind” him, and what mattered now is what Trump says.

But if a recent op-ed he penned for the Wall Street Journal gave any hint to his policy recommendations to Trump, one could be a redefining of what an “imminent threat” from North Korea would be - and when the U.S. should respond by carrying out a pre-emptive strike.

Bolton wrote that it was “perfectly legitimate” for the United States to respond to the “current” threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons by striking first.

The piece, entitled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First,” was published on Feb. 28.

Opponents of a pre-emptive strike argue that the North does not pose an imminent threat to the United States, and therefore, Washington must not carry out a pre-emptive strike on the regime, wrote Bolton. “They are wrong,” he wrote.

“Given the gaps in U.S. intelligence about North Korea, we should not wait until the very last minute,” he said. “That would risk striking after the North has deliverable nuclear weapons, a much more dangerous situation.”

In an interview with Radio Free Asia on March 19, before he was named Trump’s new national security adviser, Bolton said he was “very skeptical” that the North was serious about giving up its nuclear arsenal, saying the U.S. “should not fall for that ploy again.”

“North Korea has made many commitments over the years to give up its nuclear weapons program and it’s lied about them every single time,” he said. “There’s no reason to think that their behavior has changed.”

When asked about the possibility of Washington giving the North anything in return for denuclearization, perhaps economic aid or a peace treaty, Bolton rejected both options.

“There’s no way we should give North Korea a peace treaty,” he bluntly said. “They’re lucky to have a meeting with the president of the United States.”


BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]