Former and current South Korean government officials are blaming White House National Security Advisor John Bolton for endangering next month’s planned summit between the U.S. and North Korea.
Bolton is being accused of eroding efforts at diplomacy with maximalist and unrealistic expectations for Pyongyang.
Speaking to YTN Radio, Chung Dong-young, a South Korean lawmaker and former unification minister, described Bolton as one of several “land mines” on the path to U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s meeting in Singapore on June 12.
“There are several land mines on the way to the summit between North Korea and the U.S.,” Chung said. “One of those land mines just exploded: John Bolton.”
The one-time U.S. ambassador drew the ire of Pyongyang last week after continuing his repeated calls for a “Libya model” to be used for North Korean denuclearization.
WH Nat’l Security Adviser John Bolton tells @MarthaRaddatz permanent, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization “has to happen before the benefits start to flow” to North Korea. “We want to see the denuclearization process so completely underway that it’s irreversible.” pic.twitter.com/v4YWZJ3kzj
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) May 13, 2018
While Bolton was referring to the 2003 agreement in which Libya agreed to end its nuclear program in exchange for promised sanctions relief, North Korea has long viewed the term in relation to the 2011 U.S.-backed overthrow and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Some experts speculate Bolton’s remarks were made to sabotage any attempts at diplomacy. Bolton even suggested during a March interview on Fox News that his reason for supporting the Trump-Kim summit was due to his belief that it would ultimately fail.
Trump, in an attempt to distance himself from Bolton, inadvertently amplified his comments last week by appearing to mistake the “Libya model” for the NATO campaign and not the nuclear deal in a threat towards Kim.
“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat them,” Trump told reporters. “Now, that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely.”
As outlined by The Washington Post’s Tokyo bureau chief Anna Fifield, others including South Korean lawmaker Woo Sang-ho have criticized Bolton as well.
“Bolton’s preposterous ‘Libya solution’ is a red light in North Korea’s summit talks with the U.S. and South Korea,” Sang-ho said.
Lee Geun, who served under president Roh Moo-hyun while Bolton worked in the George W. Bush administration, also voiced his concern.
“I think a lot of people who were involved with the Roh administration are concerned about Bolton because he was such a neoconservative at the time, and it seems that he hasn’t changed,” Geun said. “People are worried that he’s going to interfere and botch the process.”
A current senior official speaking on the condition of anonymity stated the South Korean government views Bolton as “very dangerous” given his apparent preference for war.
“In South Korea, many people, regardless of their political orientation, are not fond of John Bolton,” the official said. “He seems to think the U.S. can fight another war on the Korean Peninsula, so from our perspective, as the people living on the Korean Peninsula, he is very dangerous.”
While the summit still appears to be on, North Korea has stated it has no intention of unilateral denuclearization.
U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) insinuated this week that Trump would use military action against North Korea if it refuses those very demands.
“President Trump told me three days ago that he wants to this in a win-win way,” Graham said. “He think that’s possible, but if they pull out, they play him, that we’re going to end North Korea’s threat to the American homeland in his first term and I’ll let you surmise as to what that might look like.”