Politics

North Korea Could Denuclearize in a Year, Bolton Says

National security adviser offers reassurances that U.S. is not 'starry-eyed' about the regime's dismal record

If North Korea is serious about dismantling its nuclear weapons program, it could do so within a year, national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday.

Bolton, who appeared on two Sunday news shows, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that North Korea has not yet taken concrete steps toward fulfilling the pledge that its leader, Kim Jong-un, made during his summit last month with President Donald Trump. Bolton (pictured above) said he expects the process to move quickly if North Korea is sincere.

“We can get — physically, we would be able to dismantle the overwhelming bulk of their programs within a year,” he said.

Bolton’s comments come amid new reports that North Korea has moved to conceal its nuclear weapons infrastructure.

Bolton declined to comment on specific intelligence, but he added the administration has no illusions about North Korea’s record on disarmament.

“We’re very well aware of North Korea’s patterns of behavior over decades of negotiating with the United States,” he said. “We know exactly what the risks are and using negotiations to drag out the length of time they have to continue their nuclear, chemical, biological weapons programs and ballistic missiles.”

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He added, “There isn’t any starry-eyed feeling among the group doing this.”

In a wide-ranging Fox News Channel interview with Maria Bartiromo, Trump said he is confident Kim is serious.

Bolton told “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan that Kim did not hedge his words during the summit.

“Kim Jong-un was very emphatic in Singapore. He was different from prior regimes,” he said. “Now we’ll let their actions speak for themselves.”

Bolton noted in a separate interview on “Fox News Sunday” that Kim referenced the harsh rhetoric his regime and the national security adviser have traded back and forth dating to the George W. Bush administration.

“At one point at our lunch, Kim Jong-un said to me, ‘You know, the two of us have to get a picture together. I want to take it home and show my hard-liners you’re not such a bad guy,'” Bolton said.

North Korea will have to back up its words with verifiable actions, Bolton said.

“It’s to North Korea’s advantage to see these programs dismantled very quickly, because then the elimination of sanctions, aid by South Korea, Japan and others, can all begin to flow,” he told Brennan.

Addressing the upcoming summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bolton reiterated the president would raise contentious issues such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the civil war in Syria, and meddling during the 2016 election.

“There are possibilities for doing a larger negotiation for helping to get Iranian forces out of Syria and back into Iran, which would be a significant step forward.”

“We’ll see what happens when the two of them get together,” he said. “There are possibilities for doing a larger negotiation for helping to get Iranian forces out of Syria and back into Iran, which would be a significant step forward.”

Trump has come under fire from critics who contend he has given Russia a pass on election interference and has not done enough to counter expected Russian meddling in the upcoming midterm elections. They are particularly incensed that Trump recently tweeted that Russia continues to deny involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Bolton noted that Putin, in a meeting to lay the groundwork for the summit, made an interesting distinction about the interference issue. Through an interpreter, Putin denied meddling by the “Russian state,” Putin said.

“I think that’s an interesting statement,” he said. “I think it’s worth pursuing. I think the president would want to pursue it.”

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Bolton dismissed as “nonsense” concerns that Trump’s criticism of allies and praise of dictators weakens the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Bolton called NATO the most successful military-political alliance in history.

“But if core members, including Germany, aren’t willing to spend what’s necessary for their own self-defense, what are we gonna make of that?” he asked.

Bolton said NATO members’ failure to live up their defense spending commitments does far more to damage the alliance than anything Trump has said.

“If you think Russia’s a threat, ask yourself this question: Why is Germany spending less than 1.2 percent of its GNP [on defense]?” he said. “So, when people talk about undermining the NATO alliance, you should look at those who are carrying out steps that make NATO less effective militarily.”

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: John Bolton [1], [2], CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

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