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Tensions intensify on Korean Peninsula after Bolton memoir is released

Tensions intensify on Korean Peninsula after Bolton memoir is released

Posted June. 23, 2020 07:39,   

Updated June. 23, 2020 07:39


“The content is bad enough, but the timing is even worse,” a South Korean government official said about the memoir of John Bolton, the former national security advisor under the Trump administration. Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are further intensifying after Bolton divulged the sensitive insider stories concerning not only the heads of state but working-level officials of Seoul, Washington, and Pyongyang. Pundits in Seoul say that the political landscape of the peninsula has become even murkier as the North is refusing to talk and taking on a completely hawkish stance against the South.

Officials in Seoul and Washington mostly deny the revelations from Bolton’s memoir. But the book certainly contains a vast range of topics that can be potential flash points for South Korea and the U.S. The Bolton variable came up quite abruptly as Seoul and Washington are calibrating their policy towards Pyongyang again after the communist regime blew up the liaison office in Kaesong Industrial Park.

The prolonged talks over the cost-sharing for the U.S. forces in Korea are a major area exposed to the aftermath. The memoir confesses that President Trump said “threatening to pull out the entire U.S. troops will be the way to get five billion dollars from Seoul.” If that turns out to be true, President Trump is not at all hesitant in playing the pull-out card.

Others say that the fact that Trump was preoccupied with the Michael Cohen case before the Hanoi summit in February last year, which explains his lukewarm attitude towards denuclearization talks, can further entrench Pyongyang’s hawkish stance.

“It is highly likely that Pyongyang will keep play hardball until the November elections in the U.S. as it was brought home to them Trump was using the talks with Pyongyang as leverage for domestic politics,” said a source of diplomatic news. “The mud-fight between Bolton and Chung Eui-yong, the director of the Korean National Security Office, can erode the basic ties of trust between Chung Wa Dae and the White House.”

Sang-Jun Han alwaysj@donga.com