John Bolton Is Losing Influence As Donald Trump Prepares to Meet Kim Jong Un

As President Donald Trump prepares to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore next week, his new hawkish national security adviser John Bolton appears to be losing influence and has been excluded from important talks

Long considered a man who advocates war as a foreign policy plan, Bolton took over as national security adviser after H.R. McMaster resigned from the role in March. The new White House staffer made statements during his first weeks that riled the North Korean leadership. In several televised interviews, Bolton said the U.S. should pursue the “Libya model” for North Korea, referring to Tripoli’s decision to give up its nuclear weapons in the early 2000s.

But the case of Libya is a sensitive subject, as strongman Muammar Gaddafi was later captured and killed by pro-U.S. rebels in 2011. Rogue regimes like North Korea view nuclear weapons programs as a protection against such a fate, leading Pyongyang to threaten to cancel its scheduled meeting with Trump in the wake of Bolton’s comments. The country also released a statement condemning the national adviser personally.

In response, Trump later walked back Bolton’s statements and claimed publicly that “the Libyan model is not a model that we have at all when we are thinking of North Korea.” Trump said he would be willing to give Kim assurances that he can stay in power if Pyongyang gives up its nuclear weapons. 

Bolton’s blunders appear to have made room for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take a lead role in managing U.S. relationship with North Korea. Pompeo has met with North Korean representatives at least three times already, and has advocated for taking a more conciliatory tone with Pyongyang. He recently said that the Trump administration should provide the North Korean leadership with “comfort and security,” in exchange for denuclearization.

“Ensuring Chairman Kim that we want good things for the North Korean people, we have a good chance to get denuclearization,” Pompeo told the House Foreign Affairs committee last month.

Still, some experts argue that Trump should listen to Bolton and take a tougher line with North Korea.

“While the administration has a number of contrasting voices on the North Korea issue, President Trump would be wise to listen to John Bolton’s advice—and I don’t mean the so-called ‘Libya model’—and take a tough line on Kim’s nukes or see the containment strategy Trump has built over the last year collapse,” Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, a public policy think tank in Washington, told Newsweek.

“Trump must make sure that going into the Singapore Summit that he gets some sort of pledge on Pyongyang getting rid of its nukes, and John Bolton could be most helpful with that. If we were to go to Singapore, giving a massive concession of a summit—and a photo-op with one of the world’s most vile dictators—for what amounts to nothing, it would be a disappointing policy shift. In fact, the apparent split in the administration clearly illustrates a split among conservative national-security minded Republicans—and the administration must keep this in mind,” Kazianis continued.

Bolton, however, was conspicuously absent from a recent meeting with North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol, who visited Washington last week.

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