Trump Says Should Have Fired Bolton for Botching NK Talks, but Bolton Had Already Sabotaged Talks Under Bush

So why was he ever allowed anywhere near them?

Trump now says he was shocked to learn in 2018 — one month after he had already installed Bolton as the National Security Advisor — that the latter still thought the Iraq War had been a good idea all along.

He also blames Bolton for setting him back on the North Korea process so much so the consequences are still felt to this day:

Trump says he should have fired Bolton “right then & there,” however it isn’t as if Bolton had been an unknown quantity on North Korea.

In the Bush years, Bolton together with Cheney already played a decisive role in burying the Clinton-era Agreed Framework that could have led to peace:

John Bolton, Cheney’s proxy in the State Department on proliferation issues, writes in his memoir Surrender is Not an Option that he considered the “axis of evil” speech a signal that he could now begin a bureaucratic offensive aimed at killing the Agreed Framework. Bolton recalls that he pushed the State Department to adopt the position that North Korea was out of compliance with the Agreed Framework for having “failed to make a complete and accurate declaration of its nuclear activities and refused to allow inspection of related facilities.”

However, Bolton was misrepresenting the terms of the agreement, which provided that North Korea would come into full compliance with its safeguards agreement, including the accuracy and completeness of its declaration on its nuclear program, “[w]hen a significant portion of the LWR [light water reactor] project is completed, but before delivery of key nuclear components…” Construction on the light water reactor had not even begun in 2002, when the State Department notified Congress that North Korea was out of compliance.

Bolton’s plan was frustrated temporarily by resistance from the NSC, over which then-National Security Adviser Rice had some influence. But the decisive blow to the Agreed Framework came in July 2002, when, according to his memoir, Bolton obtained an intelligence assessment stating that North Korea “began seeking centrifuge-related materials in large quantities” in 2001, and that it had “obtained equipment suitable for use in uranium feed and withdrawal systems.” Bolton recalls that the new intelligence finding was “the hammer I had been looking for to shatter the Agreed Framework.” He argued in interagency meetings that North Korea had pledged to “take steps to implement the North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” and therefore any North Korean move toward uranium enrichment violated its commitment.

Bolton was creating another false issue. Robert Carlin, a North Korea expert and adviser to the US negotiators, has pointed out that the reference to that document was an “afterthought” and that “no one really believed that the reference to the North-South agreements would constitute one of the core DPRK obligations” in the agreement.

Bush’s negotiator with North Korea, Charles L. Pritchard, suggested bringing the uranium enrichment issue into the Agreed Framework, using the North Korean interest in normalization as negotiating leverage, according to Bolton. He also warned that if the United States withdrew from the agreement, North Korea would resume its plutonium program or start a new uranium program.

However, Bolton recalls telling Pritchard that wouldn’t make “the slightest difference,” because North Korea already had enough plutonium for “several weapons.” In fact, it was not at all clear that Pyongyang had already converted plutonium into a single nuclear weapon.

However, Bolton showed no apparent concern about North Korea’s long-range missile program, which the Clinton administration and North Korea had agreed would be negotiated in conjunction with moves toward normalization. “I wanted a decisive conclusion that the Agreed Framework was dead,” Bolton writes.

So given that Bolton had extensively documented his role in sabotaging a prior North Korea engagement, why was he ever allowed within ten miles of Trump’s repeat attempt?

 


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