A bizarre, threatening statement from Trump's security adviser may have derailed North Korea talks

Mike Theiler – Pool/Getty ImagesNational Security Advisor John Bolton
  • North Korea appeared to flip on the US on Tuesday with a variety of complaints and statements that marked the first real backslide of a diplomatic push for peace in Korea, and it pinned its complaints on a dark, threatening statement from John Bolton.
  • Bolton, President Donald Trump’s newly appointed national security adviser, suggested the US could follow a “Libya model” for denuclearizing North Korea.
  • Libya’s former leader was violently killed after giving up his weapons of mass destruction.
  • It’s unclear why Bolton chose to mention Libya in the context of North Korea, knowing the violent end Libya’s leader met, but the comment looks to have soured peace talks for now.

North Korea appeared to flip on the US on Tuesday with a variety of complaints and statements that marked the first real backslide of a diplomatic push for peace in Korea – and much of it was pinned on a dark, threatening statement made by President Donald Trump’s hawkish new national security adviser.

North Korean media specifically targeted Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton.

“We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him,” wrote Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea’s vice-minister of foreign affairs.

Bolton, who has written extensively advocating that the US bomb North Korea, recently made a strange statement that appears to have provoked North Korea’s anger.

“I think we’re looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004,” to denuclearize North Korea, Bolton told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in late April.

Shortly after the US invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein in 2003, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi agreed to have international inspectors visit his country to certify that his nuclear and chemical weapons programs had halted.

In 2011, a popular uprising in Libya got backing from the US and some NATO countries, and a salvo of cruise missile strikes pummelled the Libyan government.

Within months, Gaddafi was filmed being dragged out into the streets by rebels, who then violently killed him.

Gaddafi’s violent end and the parallels between Libya and North Korea appear to have been noted in Pyongyang.

“World knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate,” North Korea’s vice minister wrote, responding to Bolton. “It is absolutely absurd to dare compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development,” he continued, using North Korea’s formal title.

What was Bolton thinking?

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesNational Security Advisor John Bolton (R)

To be clear, the US did not kill Gaddafi; his own people did. Gaddafi enjoyed eight years of international prestige and acceptance before he met his violent end, but it’s still a comparison Bolton could have easily steered clear of.

It’s unclear why Bolton would want to compare North Korea to Libya, as the countries are very different and Libya carries unsavoury associations.

Now, a much-awaited summit between Trump and Kim has taken a negative turn, with Pyongyang reconsidering its approach and the US likely considering appeasing Kim – and Bolton’s Libya remark appears at the center of the setback.

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