U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton on Sunday said he didn’t consider the recent Hanoi summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump to be a failure.
In a wide-ranging interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, Bolton said that despite the lack of an agreement at the summit, Trump had protected the U.S.’ national interests.
“I don’t consider the summit a failure. I consider it a success defined as the president protecting and advancing American national interest,” Bolton told CBS’ Margaret Brennan.
“… The president held firm to his view. He deepened his relationship with Kim Jong Un. I don’t view it as a failure at all when American national interests are protected.”
The U.S. National Security Advisor also further expanded on the negotiations at the summit in Vietnam, saying that Trump had offered Kim what he termed “the big deal”, complete denuclearization under Washington’s definition in exchange for an “an enormous economic future.”
“If North Korea commits to complete denuclearization– including its ballistic missile program and its chemical and biological weapons programs, the prospect of economic progress is there,” Bolton said.
But Pyongyang put a narrower denuclearization option on the table, more focused on “the Yongbyon complex which includes an aging nuclear reactor and some percentage of their uranium enrichment plutonium reprocessing capabilities,” Bolton said.
The U.S. National security advisor added that in exchange for Yongbyon, North Korea wanted “substantial relief from the sanctions.”
After the summit in the Vietnamese capital, both Washington and Pyongyang gave their own version of events on why the talks ended abruptly and without an agreement.
Trump said that North Korea had asked for “sanctions lifted in their entirety,” while North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho later announced Pyongyang wanted the “partial removal” of international restrictions.
North Korea’s requests focused on rolling back UN resolutions passed throughout 2016 and 2017, which target the DPRK’s mineral and food exports, fuel imports and contain other relatively broad restrictions on the DPRK’s inward and outward bound trade.
The UN resolutions passed before 2016 were primarily focused on North Korean proliferation and the country’s weapons trading.
During the CBS interview, Bolton also headed off potential criticism that earlier diplomatic groundwork prior to the summit was supposed to negate the possibility of both sides walking away from the meetings without a deal.
“We honestly didn’t know (what North Korea would bring to the table). I mean it’s not unusual in these circumstances to find that there are additional concessions that the other side might make,” Boltons said.
“But we’ve tried to make it clear to them – as again the president has said this repeatedly we’re not going to make the mistakes of past administrations.”
The national security advisor said that the next steps weren’t clear, but that the U.S. would continue the “maximum pressure campaign”, while admitting that North Korea continued to produce nuclear materials.
“They have been (producing nuclear fuel). Yes, they have. That’s exactly correct,” Bolton said.
But Bolton added that there was “no expiration” date on the diplomatic track with North Korea and that the continuing nuclear production did not reduce Washington’s leverage.
“I don’t think the leverage gets reduced because I think we will keep the maximum pressure campaign in place even before the summit,” the U.S. national security advisor said.
“We were looking at ways to tighten it up, to stop for example the ship to ship transfers that the North Koreans are using to evade the sanctions, to talk to other countries to make sure they tighten up on North Korea.”
Bolton also answered questions on Trump’s comments on Otto Warmbier, which drew sharp criticism from U.S. lawmakers and human rights activists.
Speaking at a press conference after the summit, the U.S. president said he believed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had no knowledge of Warmbier’s treatment, who was returned to the U.S. in a coma and died shortly after.
“The president’s been very clear he viewed what happened to Otto Warmbier as barbaric and unacceptable and I think the best thing North Korea could do right now would be to come up with a full explanation of exactly what happened to him,” Bolton said.
“I’ve heard the president talk about Otto Warmbier on any number of occasions in the Oval Office. And I know how strongly he feels about it. I have no doubt of that whatever.”
Speaking later on CNN’s State of the Union, Bolton said that his own opinion on Warmbier’s treatment didn’t matter and that he was Trump’s national security advisor, not the “national security decision maker.”
Featured image: White House
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 801 words of this article.