U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton on Friday said Washington would roll back sanctions if North Korea agreed to a “significant” step towards denuclearization.
During an interview with the Washington Times, Bolton appeared to walk back on Washington’s previous DPRK sanctions policy, which would see sanctions remain until North Korea had fully denuclearized.
But Bolton did not specify in the interview if he meant international sanctions or the U.S.’s own, unilateral restrictions.
“What we need from North Korea is a significant sign of a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons and it is when we get that denuclearization that the President can begin to take the sanctions off,” Bolton said in answer to a question on what progress was expected from the planned summit.
Bolton’s softened stance seems in contrast with the U.S.’ previous commitment to ensuring the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of North Korea’s nuclear program before rolling back sanctions.
In September last year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chaired a combative meeting of the UN Security Council, where Washington announced there would be no sanctions relief despite pressure from Beijing and Moscow.
“Until the final denuclearization of the DPRK is achieved and fully verified it is our solemn collective responsibility to fully implement all Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea,” Pompeo said at the time.
“Enforcement of UN Security Council sanctions must continue vigorously and without fail until we realize the full, final, verified denuclearization.”
During his interview with the Washington Times, Bolton also appeared to issue a warning to North Korea, when answering a question on whether Washington could trust Pyongyang.
“It’s the sort of thing where the negotiation really is between the President and Kim Jong Un. He is prepared to engage in this negotiation. If I was Kim Jong-un, I would not think of crossing the President,” the U.S. national security advisor said.
Bolton added that he hoped China would continue to play a role in sanctions enforcement, though steered clear of assessing Beijing’s efforts at enforcing the UN’s measures thus far.
“We certainly say to them on every occasion that we want them to maintain the international economic sanctions against North Korea very tightly,” Bolton told the Washington Times.
“Watch the border, as President Trump says to them, and that is the position we are going to continue to take as we get ready for the second summit between the President and Kim Jong Un.”