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One-year timeline is Kim’s idea, Bolton says

Aug 07,2018
The White House’s national security adviser purported on Sunday that it was North Korea’s leader who proposed a one-year timeline for denuclearization during his summit with the South Korean president in April, though the South Korean government on Monday could not confirm the validity of the claim.

“Kim Jong-un promised South Korean President Moon Jae-in at Panmunjom on April 27 that he would do it and that he would do it within a year,” John Bolton told anchor Chris Wallace in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”

Bolton added that the “focus” was to get Kim to “follow through on what he committed” to U.S. President Donald Trump at their summit in Singapore on June 12 and emphasized that the United States’ priority was North Korea’s denuclearization.

The Blue House on Monday would not confirm Bolton’s remarks on the exchange between Moon and Kim at their summit.

“I don’t have any information on that,” Kim Eui-kyeom, the Blue House spokesman, said in a regular news briefing. “I do not know what the two leaders discussed at Panmunjom and even if I did know, it would not be appropriate to speak of it.”

Bolton, a hard-liner on North Korea in the Trump administration, was responding to a question from Wallace about whether Washington would shut the door on nuclear talks with Pyongyang after a year.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about where the idea of finishing this in a year comes from,” Bolton said. “It comes from Kim Jong-un - that if they make a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons, they can do it within a year.”

Bolton said Washington was “waiting to see evidence” that such a strategic decision had been made.

Asked when Trump might press Kim about his commitment to denuclearization amid reports of the North violating sanctions, Bolton replied, “That point may well come... There’s nobody in his administration starry-eyed about the prospects of North Korea actually denuclearizing.”

The national security adviser defended Trump’s actions and said the president was offering Kim a door. If Kim “can’t figure out how to walk through it, even the president’s fiercest critics will not be able to say it’s because he didn’t open it wide enough,” Bolton said. He added that there was “no question” that the United States was going to have to “see a performance from the North Koreans.”

Bolton’s remarks come amid an apparent impasse in talks between the North and United States since the Singapore summit, despite ongoing goodwill gestures such as the exchange of letters between the two leaders and the North’s recent repatriation of American soldiers’ remains.

In an interview with CBS on July 1, Bolton raised the idea of dismantling the bulk of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program “within a year,” contradicting an earlier statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that there was no timeline on dismantlement.

But then late last month, Pompeo testified to a Senate committee that he would like to see denuclearization by the end of Trump’s first term in 2021.

In the Fox News interview, Bolton drew a line on Washington’s priorities. While there is “a lot of interest in inter-Korean negotiation,” Bolton said it is “not our priority.”

Further undercutting the Trump administration’s vision of economic prosperity for North Korea should it denuclearize, Bolton said, “I don’t want a condo on a beach in North Korea under any circumstances.”

On the stalled pace of negotiations, the Blue House spokesman Kim on Monday said it was asking for “North Korea to speed up its denuclearization process” and for the “United States to show a sincere position toward the corresponding measures that the North is requesting” in return for its denuclearization.

Such requests might include a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, in which fighting technically concluded with an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]