Update at 1630 EST: This article has been updated to include additional details over the circumstances of Bolton’s departure and comments from experts.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced he had fired National Security Advisor John Bolton, citing disagreements between the two.
Bolton, who is often seen as hawkish within Washington and is typically thought of as a taking a hard line of foreign policy issues like North Korea and Iran, had reportedly clashed with the President on a number of issues.
“I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House,” Trump said on Twitter. “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning.”
“I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week.”
But Bolton appeared to dispute Trump’s version of events, saying on Twitter and telling journalists in the U.S. that he resigned from the role.
The controversial National Security Advisor’s views are typically not liked by Pyongyang, which has previously publicly railed against him via state-media or in the form of direct remarks from North Korean officials.
In April this year, North Korean first vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui condemned Bolton over comments regarding the DPRK’s willingness to denuclearize.
“As it was before, we have never expected that adviser Bolton would ever make a reasonable remark,” Choe said.
“If he is a White House national security adviser, he should at least have understood about what kinds of substantive communications are made between the top leaders concerning the 3rd round of summit before he had ever opened his mouth.”
The previous month, North Korea’s foreign ministry called Bolton a “war fanatic” and said he “destroys peace and security.”
“Who knows whether North Korea policy played a role in Trump and Bolton going their separate ways, but it is hard not to see it going down well in Pyongyang,” Christopher Green, Senior Adviser on Korean Peninsula issues at the International Crisis Group told NK News.
“That said, anyone who imagines that the firing will lead to a breakthrough is likely to be disappointed.”
Another expert told NK News that Bolton and Trump were unlikely to see eye to eye over North Korea policy, given the U.S. President’s focus on deal-making.
“I think President Trump overall wanted to portray himself as a great dealmaker who was averse to U.S. military commitments overseas, and Bolton’s views did not support those priorities,” Mintaro Oba, a former State Department Korea Desk Officer, said.
“Pyongyang may well see some tactical value in touting Bolton’s demise, but realistically, it probably won’t perceive any real impact on U.S. policy toward North Korea or see any value in changing its own approach.”
North Korea watchers and experts contacted by NK News tended to agree that Bolton’s removal will likely be viewed positively in Pyongyang, though added that it was unlikely to affect the North’s overall negotiation posture.
“I don’t think North Korea will immediately change the course of its actions because of this. I don’t think North Korea thought that Bolton was the only obstacle preventing the country from getting what it wants,” Naoko Aoki, a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the RAND Corporation told NK News.
Bolton’s stance on the DPRK was relatively uncompromising, with the National Security Advisor saying in August that Pyongyang would need to make a “big deal” over denuclearization before it could expect concessions.
But the ousted National Security Advisor’s comments while on Trump’s staff also appeared less strident that before he held the position.
In 2014, Bolton told NK News that North Korea is a “terrorist state,” and as such should not be legitimized through deals.
Bolton has also argued that North Korea will ultimately use its nuclear weapons not just for self-defense but also for more aggressive purposes.
“At some point, people have to recognize that North Korea wants nuclear weapons not just for self-defense, but they still want to reunify the Korean Peninsula under their control,” Bolton told a security forum in 2018.
Bolton served as Trump’s top national security official since March 2018, when he took over from Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who retired from the army and public service.
Featured image: White House
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