- National Security Adviser John Bolton was absent from President Donald Trump’s meeting with a top North Korean official last week.
- Bolton ruffled some feathers in April by speculating that the Trump administration was “looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004” as part of potential negotiations with North Korea.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly said, because of Bolton’s remarks, which upset the North, Bolton’s presence in the meeting between Trump and North Korean vice chairman Kim Yong Chol would be “counterproductive.”
There was one notable senior US official missing when President Donald Trump met with North Korean vice chairman Kim Yong Chol at the White House on Friday: National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was present at the meeting where Kim handed Trump a symbolic letter, reportedly told Trump that Bolton’s presence would be “counterproductive,” people familiar with the talks told CNN.
In May, Bolton was criticised in the US and North Korea after suggesting that if the Trump administration were to make concessions, it would be “looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004” as part of its negotiations about North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.
In 2003, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi allowed independent inspectors to verify that its nuclear and chemical programs were shut down. Eight years later, rebel forces killed him in a violent display during uprisings supported by the US.
North Korea’s propaganda outlets condemned Bolton’s remarks, which cast uncertainty on the future of the upcoming summit between Trump and leader Kim Jong Un: “It is absolutely absurd to dare compare [North Korea], a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development,” a North Korean propaganda statement said.
Bolton’s comments, which were later echoed by vice president Mike Pence, reportedly incensed Pompeo, who confronted him over the issue.
“There has been considerable tension between them ever since,” a person familiar with the situation told CNN. A National Security Council spokesman denied that characterization to the news outlet.
Bolton’s nomination as Trump’s top aide on national security issues rankled foreign policy experts and Democratic lawmakers in March. The former US ambassador to the United Nations has been described as one of the most ardent hawks against North Korea, and has received widespread criticism for his approach on dealing with the regime.
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