In his first major public appearance since being abruptly ousted as national security adviser, John Bolton threw cold water on President Donald Trump’s visions of a nuclear deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, warning the regime will never willingly denuclearize.
Appearing at Washington, D.C.’s Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday, Bolton said that in his private capacity, he could finally “speak in unvarnished terms about the grave and growing threat” posed to international security by North Korea’s nuclear program.
“It seems to me clear that the DPRK has not made a strategic decision to give up its nuclear weapons,” he said. “In fact, I think the contrary is true. I think the strategic decision that King Jong Un is operating through is that he will do whatever he can to keep a deliverable nuclear weapons capability and to develop and enhance it further.”
Dismissing any hopes of a deal, Bolton said that “under current circumstances, [Kim] will never give up the nuclear weapons voluntarily.”
Three weeks ago, Trump announced in a tweet that he had informed Bolton that he was “no longer needed at the White House,” asking for his resignation letter.
Bolton’s departure followed reports that he and the president were clashing on foreign policy matters including how to address North Korea, a country with which Trump has developed a far warmer relationship than past administrations, meeting with Kim three times for talks that have resulted in no significant progress on denuclearization. Meanwhile, the regime has continued to conduct missile tests while receiving virtually no pushback from Trump.
In his remarks, Bolton emphasized his belief “that there is only one country in the world that can stop nuclear proliferation, and we’re in it.”
“But if the United States fails in this mission, there is no other state or combination of states and no international organization that can be a substitute,” he added. “If we fail, nuclear proliferation succeeds.”
During the president’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly last week, he noted that the U.S. “has never believed in permanent enemies” and again called for denuclearization, calling North Korea “full of tremendous untapped potential.”
That same week, Trump told reporters a fourth meeting with Kim “could happen soon,” though he gave no timeline, according to The Associated Press.