- Former White House national security adviser John Bolton told Axios he doubted Trump “really means it” over pledges to halt North Korea’s plans to develop a long-range missile capable of striking the US.
- Bolton told the outlet that if the Trump administration were serious about stopping North Korea’s weapons program, “it would be pursuing a different course.”
- Recent satellite photographs show new activity at two sites key to North Korea’s missile program, with officials fearing that Pyongyang’s pledge of a “Christmas gift” to the US may take the form of new weapons tests.
- Trump has boasted of his ability to broker a deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and reduce the threat from the rogue state, but so far, there is little for the US to show for a series of photo-op summits between the leaders and a new wave of sanctions.
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Former White House national security adviser John Bolton said he didn’t believe President Donald Trump “really means it” when he said he was determined to stop North Korea from developing nuclear missiles that could be used to target the US.
Speaking with Axios, Bolton said that if Trump and his officials were serious about stopping North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s ambitions to expand its nuclear-weapons program, “it would be pursuing a different course.”
“The idea that we are somehow exerting maximum pressure on North Korea is just unfortunately not true,” Bolton said, referring to Trump’s claims that his administration is applying “maximum pressure” on the North Korea in the form of punishing sanctions to extract concessions on its weapons program.
He went on to describe Trump’s pledges to stop North Korea obtaining a nuclear weapon that could hit the US or its allies as a mere “rhetorical policy.”
Bolton’s comments came as new satellite images emerged last week that show new activity at two sites key to North Korea’s intercontinental-ballistic-missile program. In a recent statement, North Korea warned of a “Christmas gift” to the US if it did not ease up on sanctions.
An administration official told CNN that US officials were closely monitoring the sites to see if the “gift” would take the form of a new round of weapons tests.
If Kim did decide to defy US attempts to extract concessions, Bolton said he hoped the administration would say, “‘We’ve tried. The policy’s failed.'”
“We’re going to go back now and make it clear that in a variety of steps, together with our allies, when we say it’s unacceptable, we’re going to demonstrate we will not accept it.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Bolton’s claims.
A hawkish national-security veteran, Bolton left the White House in September.
His departure followed a series of clashes with Trump and rivals in the administration over key national-security issues, including Iranian aggression in the Middle East and a bid to oust Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro from power.
While Bolton has advocated launching military strikes against North Korea to halt its weapons program, Trump has touted his skills as a “dealmaker” capable of wrestling new agreements and new concessions from hostile regimes.
So far, there has been little progress with North Korea, with Kim offering Trump effusive public praise and taking part in high-profile photo ops with him but offering nothing in the form of substantive concessions.
“Time is on the side of the proliferator,” Bolton told Axios.
“The more time there is, the more time there is to develop, test, and refine both the nuclear component and the ballistic-missile component of the program.”
Since his departure, Bolton has launched a series of thinly veiled attacks on Trump and his foreign policy, but the comments published on Sunday were his most openly critical to date.