Bolton’s ouster to speed up nu­clear talks with NK

De­par­ture of hawk­ish aide could be good sign for re­sum­ing di­a­logue

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Lee Min-hyung mh­[email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

Fol­low­ing the exit of hawk­ish Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion af­ter he was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously fired, Wash­ing­ton is now ex­pected to soften its hard­line ap­proach to­ward North Korea when both sides re­sume their talks on de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula, ex­perts said Wed­nes­day.

The ouster of Bolton is seen as a mes­sage from Trump that he badly wants to re­vive the stalled talks since the fail­ure of the Hanoi sum­mit ear­lier this year. The U.S. pres­i­dent is widely seen as try­ing to gen­er­ate a good for­eign af­fairs pol­icy out­come in his bid for re-elec­tion next year. Bolton’s de­par­ture came as Py­ongyang showed its will­ing­ness to re­sume work­ing-level nu­clear talks with the U.S. later this month.

“North Korea will ap­par­ently wel­come Trump’s ouster of Bolton, as the hawk­ish fig­ure has long been seen as a thorn in its side from the North’s viewpoint,” said Park Won­gon, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Han­dong Global Univer­sity.

“This is a pos­i­tive sign in terms of re­sum­ing the nu­clear talks be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Py­ongyang.”

But the ex­pert pointed out that Bolton’s ab­sence could have a neg­a­tive im­pact on Wash­ing­ton’s ul­ti­mate long-term goal of achiev­ing com­plete de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the North.

“Bolton was well aware of what de­nu­cle­ariza­tion is and has al­ways stuck to prin­ci­ples with­out be­ing swayed by po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests,” Park said. Bolton was the most ap­pro­pri­ate fig­ure who could de­liver crit­i­cal and re­al­is­tic mes­sages to Trump, so there are now con­cerns on whether the U.S. pres­i­dent will be able to fill the po­si­tion with some­one who is as well-versed in de­nu­cle­ariza­tion, the pro­fes­sor said.

All eyes are on who will re­place Bolton, as his suc­ces­sor will play a cru­cial role in shap­ing Trump’s North Korea pol­icy drive. Trump said he would be nam­ing a new ad­viser some­time next week.

Bolton, who has served as the U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser since April 2018, has clashed with Trump on a series of na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues, which the U.S. leader said was the rea­son for fir­ing the hard­line aide.

“I in­formed John Bolton last night that his ser­vice was no longer needed at the White House,” Trump tweeted Tues­day. “I dis­agreed strongly with many of his sug­ges­tions, as did oth­ers in the ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Bolton is fa­mous for his strong an­tag­o­nis­tic views on North Korea. His stance, how­ever, did not mesh with that of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which wants to con­tinue urg­ing the North to re­turn to ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Trump and Bolton have had crit­i­cal dis­crep­an­cies re­gard­ing the North. Bolton re­cently slammed Py­ongyang for launch­ing short­range mis­siles, say­ing the provo­ca­tions were banned un­der United Na­tions res­o­lu­tions.

But Trump did not re­act strongly to the North’s re­cent mis­sile tests, “de­fend­ing” the coun­try by say­ing they were noth­ing more than “small weapons.”

The nu­clear talks be­tween the two have been sus­pended since the fail­ure of the Hanoi sum­mit be­tween Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last Fe­bru­ary.

John Bolton

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