U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton appears to be leading the administration’s policy direction toward North Korea, which is turning into a hardline approach following the breakdown of the Hanoi summit. The hawkish adviser, who is known to have influenced Trump’s decision to seek a “big deal” with Pyongyang, called for continued pressure and sent warning messages to the North in a series of interviews with six news organizations in a week. This has triggered speculation that the two countries will demand greater concessions to resume negotiations.
“We see exactly what they’re doing now. We see it unblinkingly, and we don’t have any illusions about what their capabilities are,” Bolton told ABC News and Fox News on Sunday (local time), referring to images of North Korea’s missile sites in Dongchang-ri. He also repeatedly stressed a need to exchange all of the North’s weapons program for the lifting of sanctions, not any step-by-step approach to denuclearization.
“The president’s confident in his personal relationship with Kim Jong Un. He said he’s open to a third summit,” Bolton said about the possibility of a third Trump-Kim meeting. “Some time may have to go by.”
What stood out was Bolton’s apparent distrust of North Korea. “The North Koreans have pledged to give up their nuclear weapons program at least five separate times, beginning in 1992, they never seem to get around to it, though,” Bolton said. “I’ve been doing this since the first Bush administration, George H. W. Bush. Nothing in the proliferation game surprises me anymore.”
A diplomatic source said that Bolton’s emphasis on a “big deal” shows that they need regulations for the definition and a roadmap of denuclearization. “He’s taken issue with ‘simultaneously implementing’ steps without a set, ultimate objective in a path toward denuclearization.” This indicates that even though Bolton and U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun have differed in points they stress during nuclear talks, the Trump administration’s fundamental initiative for North Korea’s denuclearization is based on a plan to draw up a roadmap that includes the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to implement necessary steps in stages.
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