John Bolton’s wrecking ball takes down the North Korea summit

It seems obvious that John Bolton intended all along to demolish the North Korean summit. His provocative demand for all-or-nothing Libya-model denuclearization was tantamount to telling Kim Jung Un to hand over all his nukes so the United States could kill him, once that was done.

From the Daily Beast:

National Security Adviser John Bolton might just have gotten his wish: President Donald Trump has called off the June 12 summit meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. For weeks, Bolton has been working to set impossibly high expectations for the summit.

Bolton appeared to be willing to settle for nothing other than Kim showing up to Singapore to turn over the keys to his nuclear program — which North Korea has recently taken to calling its “treasured sword” — to the United States. Bolton’s preferred model all this time has been the 2003 disarmament of Libya, which at the time had a nuclear-weapons program that was effectively in a primordial state and was dismantled by the United States.

“In Libya, we decimated that country,” Trump said, adding that “that model would take place if we don’t make a deal [with North Korea], most likely.” This was nothing short of an overt threat to bring about Kim Jong Un’s end should he not show up in Singapore prepared to prove his nuclear-weapons program was shut down for good. Trump might not have a nonproliferation scholar’s grasp of history, but his conflation of the 2003 and 2011 “Libya models” was ultimately the moment to destroy the summit.

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Trump says his summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un might not work out for June

This is probably more John Bolton’s doing than South Korea’s “joint military drills with the U.S. on the Korean Peninsula.”

From CNBC:

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that there’s a “substantial” chance that his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “may not work out” for June.

Trump made the remark while he met with Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, for pivotal discussions ahead of the American president’s planned meeting with the North Korean dictator. [..]

Last week, North Korea said it would reconsider whether to hold the meeting after abruptly canceling talks with South Korea amid joint military drills with the U.S. on the Korean Peninsula.

The communist dictatorship also took issue with Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, who suggested using a denuclearization model similar to one used with North African country Libya. The nation’s dictator at the time, Muammar Gaddafi, agreed to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for relaxed U.S. sanctions. Eventually, however, the U.S. supported a violent overthrow of Gaddafi.

North Korea called any attempt to impose a Libya-style arrangement on the country “awfully sinister.”

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What China wants — and doesn’t want — from a Trump-Kim summit

“Beijing’s security interests will be served if a potential agreement weakens the U.S. alliance with South Korea, reduces the U.S. military presence in Asia and limits the threat of refugee flows on Chinese borders, according to The Atlantic Council.”

From CNBC:

Next month’s milestone summit between North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump has major implications for China, which has geopolitical and security interests at stake on the Korean Peninsula.

“Lurking in the background as a potential spoiler or helper in this drama is Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who sees both opportunity and peril,” Fred Kempe, president and CEO of foreign policy think tank Atlantic Council, wrote in a recent note.

The world’s second-largest economy has long supported a nuclear-free region but strategists say its greatest priority is preventing North Korean regime collapse — if the rogue state falls under the weight of sanctions, that could send a flood of citizens to China.

For Beijing, “the right sort of peace deal could weaken the U.S. alliance with South Korea, reduce the threat of conflict and refugee flows on Chinese borders, and ultimately lead to the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea,” said Kempe.

Ending the U.S. military presence in South Korea — a major prerequisite for Kim’s administration to relinquish nuclear weapons — is expected to boost China’s goal of minimizing America’s influence in Asia.

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Donald Trump’s warning to Kim Jong-un: make a deal or suffer same fate as Gaddafi

“Asked about ‘Libya model’, Trump says: ‘That model … was total decimation. That model would take place if we don’t make a deal’”

From The Guardian:

Donald Trump has threatened Kim Jong-un with the same fate as Muammar Gaddafi if the North Korean leader “doesn’t make a deal” on his nuclear weapons programme.

The US president issued the threat at the White House when he was asked about the recent suggestion by his national security adviser, John Bolton, that the “Libyan model” be a template for dealing with North Korea at a summit between Trump and Kim planned for 12 June in Singapore.

The model Bolton was referring to was Gaddafi’s agreement in December 2003 to surrender his embryonic nuclear weapons programme, which included allowing his uranium centrifuges to be shipped out to the US.

But Trump appeared to be unaware of that agreement, and interpreted the “Libyan model” to mean the 2011 Nato intervention in Libya in support of an insurrection, which ultimately led to Gaddafi’s murder at the hands of rebels in Tripoli. […]

Asked whether his comments meant that he disagreed with his national security adviser, the third of his administration, the president said: “I think when John Bolton made that statement, he was talking about if we are going to be having a problem, because we cannot let that country have nukes. We just can’t do it.”

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John Bolton sabotages Trump’s peace talks with North Korea

Kim reportedly took exception to Bolton’s public demand that North Korea follow “The Libya Model” of denuclearization.

From Information Liberation:

John Bolton appears to have successfully sabotaged President Trump’s peace talks with North Korea thanks to his insane public comments demanding North Korea follow “The Libya Model” of nuclear disarmament.

Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program around 2004 in an attempt to normalize relations with the US only to be sodomized to death by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

Kim Jong-un has said repeatedly he doesn’t want to meet the same fate and yet Bolton went all over TV two weeks ago saying again and again Libya is the “model” to follow.

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North Korea says it may blow off Trump meeting, and ‘sinister’ US won’t make it give up nukes

“North Korea said it will reconsider a June 12 meeting with President Donald Trump if Washington insists on Pyongyang relinquishing nuclear weapons.”

From CNBC:

North Korea on Wednesday injected further uncertainty into plans for a highly anticipated summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump.

In a statement carried by state news agency KCNA that was widely reported and translated by media outlets, North Korea’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Gwan said his country will reconsider the historic June 12 meeting if the U.S. insists on Pyongyang relinquishing its nuclear weapons.

The development is the latest sign of possible backtracking by Kim following the ruler’s months-long international charm offensive that was widely hoped to clear tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Earlier, the rogue state canceled talks with South Korea and threatened to ditch the June 12 summit in protest over Washington and Seoul’s joint military drills.

Wednesday’s news “is classic North Korean playbook,” said Sean King, senior vice president at consulting firm Park Strategies.

Ongoing peace efforts, which include Kim’ssummit with South Korean leader Moon Jae-In last month, may “be moving faster than North Korea ever expected and this is sort of their passive-aggressive excuse to get out of it,” he continued.

Recent “unbridled remarks” from Washington prior to the June 12 meeting constituted signs of “reckless” behavior, Kim Kye Gwan stated.

Specifically naming National Security Advisor John Bolton, the North Korean minister said U.S. officials are “letting loose the assertions of so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment” and discussing a formula of “abandoning nuclear weapons first [and] compensating afterwards.”

That amounts to “awfully sinister” moves to impose on North Korea “the destiny of Libya or Iraq, which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers,” the minister said, stressing that Pyongyang rejects Libya-style denuclearization.

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Lindsey Graham helped Trump intimidate Chinese by warning them POTUS is ‘crazy, volatile’

Graham told the Chinese ambassador, “If you don’t think Trump’s crazy, then you’re crazy.”

From The Western Journal:

During the 2016 Republican primary season, most of the GOP presidential candidates were not big fans of then-businessman Donald Trump, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was certainly no exception.

Since Trump won the election and took office, Graham has come around somewhat and has been fairly supportive of the president’s agenda, though he still offers up softened criticism of Trump’s words and deeds at times like many other members of the Republican establishment.

According to Mediaite, Graham appears to have delivered a grab bag of criticism and praise of the president during a speech to the Columbia Rotary Club on Monday.

The remarks from the senator on a variety of topics were documented in a handful of tweets from a local reporter in attendance at the speech, Andy Shain of The Charleston Post and Courier.

At one point Graham related how he had told the Chinese ambassador, “If you don’t think Trump’s crazy, then you’re crazy.”

While on it’s face that may come across as criticism, consider how that actually may have proven helpful to the bigger picture of Trump’s agenda as it pertains to military and trade relations with China and especially North Korea.

Trump’s bellicose rhetoric toward North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — which in essence appears to have brought Kim to the discussion table for peace talks — painted the picture that Trump was just “crazy” enough to actually back up his “fire and fury” rhetoric with actual furious fire from the military if Kim continued to threaten the region.

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Hold the Nobel Prize: Kim is setting a trap for Trump

“It’s far too early to get excited about the possible outbreak of peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

From Politico Magazine:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo completed his second trip in as many months to North Korea, returning with the remaining three American hostages and setting the agenda for the historic summit—which President Donald Trump just announced will be held on June 12 in Singapore.

Reading news reports out of last month’s meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas could lead one to conclude that Kim Jong Un is ready to abandon North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees from the United States. If accurate, this may be the basis for a peaceful, diplomatic outcome to one of the most urgent security threats facing the United States.

But before we declare peace or book flights to Oslo for the Nobel ceremony, let’s take account of lessons from prior negotiations with North Korea to counter what is likely Kim’s attempt to undercut support for sanctions and drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea.

The Panmunjom Declaration, issued after the late April meeting between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae In, feels like a Hollywood movie remake with new actors but the same tired story. North Korea has pledged on multiple occasions to not to acquire nuclear weapons, beginning with the North’s accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985. In 1992, Kim’s grandfather committed to three no’s: no nuclear weapons, no nuclear reprocessing and no uranium enrichment. North Korea was caught red-handed cheating multiple times on all three nuclear no’s, but still received security assurances from the United States in 2005, when both sides pledged “to respect each other’s sovereignty, exist peacefully together” and normalize relations. All of these efforts ended in the same place, with a different Kim breaking his promises and enjoying tangible concessions from the United States and its allies.

To counter Kim’s smile diplomacy and avoid his trap, the Trump administration should take four lessons from prior negotiations with North Korea, Libya and Iran.

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Is China sabotaging the North Korea denuclearization talks?

Kim’s surprise back-to-back meeting with Xi could mean the Chinese are up to no good.

From the Daily Beast:

Tuesday, President Trump revealed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on his way to North Korea. The trip had not been previously announced.

Just hours before, Beijing reported that Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, met with China’s Xi Jinping on Monday and Tuesday, in the Chinese port of Dalian. Trump spoke with Xi by phone Tuesday to discuss Xi’s surprise meeting with Kim.

The Chinese appear to be up to no good. There was, prior to the Xi-Kim meeting, fast progress in American efforts to “denuclearize” North Korea, so the involvement of Beijing, which has periodically supported the North’s weaponization efforts, is unlikely to be beneficial from the Trump administration’s point of view.

Kim’s trip to Dalian was extraordinary. Kim went to Beijing at the end of March. Protocol — the Chinese are great sticklers for it when it works to their advantage — demanded Xi return the visit before Kim returned to China. In fact, in April sources reported the Chinese leader was planning to go to Pyongyang in May or June.

Instead of Xi going to Pyongyang, Kim made another visit to Chinese soil. At least since the end of the fighting in the Korean War, never have there been two China-North Korea summits so close together in time. “It is without modern precedent for a leader to come to China on back-to-back visits as Mr. Kim has done,” said Cheng Xiaohe of Beijing’s Renmin University to The New York Times.

So why did the Dalian meeting occur? “The second meeting demonstrated that North Korea wanted China to play a larger role in the denuclearization process,” Cheng said. “When Kim enters the meeting with Trump, he will feel more confident, simply his positions on a variety of issues were consulted and sanctioned by the Chinese leader.” […]

China is making mischief at a crucial time, when both sides are establishing their initial positions. Kim hoped to “eventually achieve denuclearization and lasting peace on the peninsula,” Beijing’s statement said. To do that, the North Korean was contemplating “phased and synchronous measures in a responsible manner.”

Kim’s position is, at least at this moment, completely unacceptable to the Trump administration. “We will not relieve sanctions until such time as we have achieved our objectives,” Pompeo told reporters on his plane Tuesday while en route to North Korea. “We’re not going to do this in small increments, where the world is coerced into relieving economic pressures.”

Accordingly, Pompeo may have decided to get on his plane to undo Xi’s efforts on Monday and Tuesday with Kim. It’s noteworthy that Pompeo is going to North Korea just as positive momentum in U.S.-North Korea ties is fading. The unwelcome propaganda blast directed at the Trump administration from the Korean Central News Agency occurred over the weekend, just hours before Kim met Xi.

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Trump is winning and heads are spinning as North Korea talks get off to a running start

There seems to be an assumption — not in the least downplayed by President Trump himself — that denuclearization of North Korea is practically already in the bag, that the meeting with Kim will be merely a formal prelude to him handing over all of his nukes and missiles.

From Business Day:

President Donald Trump has emerged from a year on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea with a prospective, unprecedented meeting with its leader Kim Jong Un on the books, renewed hopes of peace, and Nobel Peace Prize buzz.

Put bluntly, the reversal in North Korea’s attitude towards the US represents one of the most stunning turns in politics since Trump scored a tremendous upset to win the 2016 presidential election.

So far, North Korea has repeatedly promised it will denuclearize, and has invited the US and South Korea to observe part of that promise. North Korea hasn’t asked for the US to do anything in exchange besides agree not to invade them.

When a Trump administration official called for US detainees in North Korea to be released as a sign of Pyongyang’s sincerity, days later reports emerged that Kim had allowed just that.

All of these developments are so far only talk and plans. But they represent big wins for Trump’s stated aims: peace and denuclearization.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has credited Trump with creating the atmosphere necessary for an inter-Korean summit. North Korea expert John Delury wrote at 38 North that this has “put diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula off to a very good start.”

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President Moon has even called for Trump to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for bringing peace to the Koreas.

However, Jeffrey Lewis — “the go-to expert on North Korea for CNN, The New York Times, and often Business Insider” — is not that optimistic.

He recently wrote a piece in Foreign Policy titled “Optimism About Korea Will Kill Us All” in which he “argues that expectations have been set too high for the Trump-Kim summit, and could eventually lead to disappointment, and then a war in which we all die.”

From Foreign Policy:

Kim is working toward winning a de facto recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power in exchange for his agreement to respect certain limits — an end to certain missile tests and nuclear explosions, an agreement not to export nuclear technology to other states, and perhaps a pledge by North Korea not to use nuclear weapons. To accept this would represent a complete and total retreat from decades of U.S. policy — a retreat that I believe is overdue and the inevitable consequence of North Korea’s development of ICBMs and thermonuclear weapons. We have to learn to accept North Korea as it is. And what North Korea is, is nuclear-armed.

But because it represents a retreat, we’re not acknowledging it honestly. If Trump were to say this clearly, then I would support the old racist windbag in this pursuit. But instead, Trump and others are presenting this process as a route that leads to North Korea’s disarmament — even though Kim has said nothing that deviates from statements that every North Korean leader has made. And in our collective self-delusion, we have a surprising cheerleader: national security advisor John Bolton.

It is worth asking why Bolton is busy giving interviews in which he raises hopes for a complete elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons that can occur in a matter of months. He has repeatedly called for a “Libya style” deal — one in which the United States simply shows up and collects the weapons and supporting infrastructure. And South Korean officials are also saying that Trump won’t meet with Kim without “a specific timeline for complete denuclearization: as soon as possible and no later than the end of Mr. Trump’s current term, in early 2021.”

This is madness. There is no reason to think that Kim has any intention of agreeing to such a thing. (Starting with the fact that he has never offered to part with North Korea’s “powerful treasured sword,” as it calls its nuclear arsenal.) And there is no reason to think that Bolton, given all the things he has written and said over the years about North Korea, believes it either. Bolton isn’t suddenly naive. He’s working an angle. And that angle is almost certainly misaligning the president’s expectations. Bolton won’t try to kill diplomacy by opposing it. Rather he’ll kill it by making the perfect the enemy of the good. By raising the prospects of a Libya-style surrender, the much more modest settlement offered by Kim looks sad by comparison.

This is a very cynical — and dangerous — game that Bolton and others are playing. Because what happens once it becomes clear that Kim is not abandoning his nuclear weapons? What does Trump do? Given his personality, what’s most likely is that he’ll lash out, blaming his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, for his role in setting up the fiasco — and turning the keys over to Bolton. Trump has already hinted at that. At a rally the other day, Trump spoke glowingly about his own efforts to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons, before turning dark. “And if I can’t do it,” Trump warned, “it will be a very tough time for a lot of countries and a lot of people.”

That is a mild description for a situation that would expose millions of Koreans, Japanese, and Americans to a heightened risk of nuclear war. If diplomacy fails, it will be a tough time for everyone — everyone except Bolton.

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