John Bolton Blasts Trump's New North Korea Sanctions as Worthless

The newest round of sanctions levied against North Korea is unlikely to make any difference, according to John R. Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the administration of George W. Bush.

“We’ve tried for 25 years, through pressure and diplomacy, and it’s failed,” Bolton told Newsweek in a conversation on Friday afternoon during a break at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The famously hawkish Bolton’s skepticism comes as the Trump administration seeks to further isolate North Korea in hopes that it will give up it nuclear program.

“The measures target 27 shipping companies and 28 vessels, registered in North Korea and six other countries, including China,” The New York Times reported on Friday. “The Treasury Department said the shipping firms are part of a sophisticated campaign to help North Korea evade United Nations sanctions restricting imports of refined fuel and exports of coal.”

Bolton's sober warning comes as North Korea's nuclear program appears to be progressing rapidly. Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo recently said that North Korea could have the capacity to strike an American city with a nuclear weapon in "handful of months." As such, this last rounds of sanctions represents what could be among the last diplomatic measures available to American officials. According to Bolton, they won't do much good.

“The principal diplomatic option at this point” is “to persuade China” to “remove the regime in North Korea,” Bolton said. He added he liked another option, which was “to reunite the two Koreas, essentially South Korean control.” But neither of these, he acknowledges, is very likely. China has been a halting partner in containing Pyongyang. It is unlikely to participate in Bolton’s ambitious reunification plan.

Given the ineffectiveness of previous sanctions, Bolton believes that the United States is heading towards a deeply unfavorable “binary choice”: Either allow North Korea to become the world’s 10th nuclear power or use military force to prevent that very possibility.

“Now, neither of those options is good. Nobody wants to be there,” Bolton says. His sober assessment comes as North Korea's nuclear program appears to be progressing rapidly. Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo recently said that North Korea could have the capacity to strike an American city with a nuclear-tipped missile in "a handful of months." As such, this last round of sanctions represents what could be among the last diplomatic measures available to American officials. According to Bolton, they won't do much good.

The possibility of a strike at Seattle or Los Angeles aside, Bolton is concerned that a nuclear North Korea would “sell this technology to anybody with hard currency, like Iran,” or even a non-state terrorist organization.

“These sanctions, or any other sanctions, aren’t going to make any difference,” Bolton said. “Fifteen years ago, they would’ve made a difference.” Bolton plainly favors a more muscular approach, and though he wouldn’t say what, exactly, that might mean, he makes one thing clear. “I will not accept a North Korea with nuclear weapons,” he said.