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Bolton on Trump’s Meeting with Kim Jong-un: ‘No Deal Is Better Than a Bad Deal’

National security adviser praised president's summit work and explained why commander-in-chief 'decided to shake things up'

John Bolton, the Trump administration’s national security adviser, on Sunday praised the outcome of President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un this past week — while also hinting there may be considerable daylight between his opinion and the president’s on the matter of Otto Warmbier.

“I think [the second summit with Kim] was unquestionably a success for the United States, because the president protected, defended American interests,” Bolton told CNN’s Jake Tapper on the “State of the Union” program.

“If you can’t get a good deal — and President Trump offered North Korea the best deal it could possibly get — no deal is better than a bad deal,” Bolton said.

“The president’s decided to shake things up in North Korean diplomacy,” Bolton also said, noting the diplomatic strategies of past administrations with the rogue nation failed. So President Trump is taking a different approach.

Related: Trump on North Korea: ‘Sometimes You Have to Walk’

Tapper asked if Bolton recommended a third summit with Kim without any assurances concessions would be made; he also said summits themselves can empower the leader for his propaganda efforts.

The president does not see it that way, said Bolton. “The key decision maker is Kim Jong-un,” he said of the possibility of a third summit.

“The big deal that he could accept — he could walk through that open door. We’ll wait and see what his decision is.”

He said Kim himself has said the route to an agreement will have many “stations,” and that last week’s summit in Hanoi represents one of those stations.

Bolton pushed back on Tapper’s assertion that the discontinuation of large-scale joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea represents a concession wrested by Kim.  “The president made his decision on the exercises back in the summer of last year — and those continue,” said Bolton.

The president himself tweeted about this particular topic on Sunday afternoon:

“What the United States gets from this is we show, again, the potential for the opening of North Korea if they’re prepared to denuclearize,” Bolton said of the summit in general. “We’re going to take a look at ways of making sure that our maximum pressure campaign of economic sanctions continues, because after all, it’s sanctions that brought North Korea to the table in the first place.”

Bolton also addressed Trump’s recent remark about taking Kim at his word when he said he was unaware of Otto Warmbier’s plight.

Warmbier, an American college student, was imprisoned in North Korea in 2016 for allegedly stealing a poster. When he was finally released in the summer of 2017, the 22-year-old was in a vegetative state. He passed away soon after.

“[The president] considers what happened to Otto Warmbier an act of brutality that’s completely unacceptable to the American side,” said Bolton. “I’ve heard him before the summit itself, before the press conference, talk about how deeply he cared about Otto Warmbier and his family.”

“The fact is, the best thing North Korea could do right now would be to give us a full accounting of what happened and who was responsible for it.”

On whether Bolton personally takes Kim at his word, the national security adviser deflected. “My opinion doesn’t matter.”

Bolton hinted at his own take on the matter after Tapper suggested he knows of no expert on North Korea who believes anything could have happened to Warmbier without Kim’s knowledge ahead of time. “Good for them,” said Bolton.

Regarding the Middle East and the removal of all 14,000 troops from Afghanistan, Bolton said, “There is no blind trust of the Taliban in this administration. That’s for sure … What the president has decided is that it’s going to be important to try and keep a counter-terrorism presence in Afghanistan.” He also noted that senior national security officials have been discussing the matter; those discussions will continue this week.

Bolton then called his “roughly 150 tweets” on the situation in Venezuela a “new experiment in public diplomacy,” adding that most of his tweets also come out in Spanish because “we want to reach a Latin American audience in particular.”

“We are trying to rally support for the peaceful transition of power from Maduro to Juan Guaido, whom we recognize as president,” said Bolton.
“Our objective is to have Juan Guaido become the interim president so that we can get new presidential elections.”

He said the need to grant an extension of temporary protected status (TPS) potentially to Venezuelan nationals who are escaping the humanitarian crisis, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has suggested, may be unnecessary if this were accomplished.

And take a look at this video:

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.

This article has been updated to reflect the president’s afternoon tweet. 

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