South Korea Lashes Out at John Bolton Book Over North Korea Claims

The South Korean government has rejected claims made in former national security adviser John Bolton's new book as distorted, warning that the book's publication sets a dangerous precedent.

Bolton's book—The Room Where it Happened, released Tuesday despite White House efforts to block its publication—details three meetings between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, painting a picture of an ill-prepared and distracted president with no realistic vision of North Korean denuclearization.

The book includes details of the ill-fated summit in Hanoi, Vietnam—the third meeting between the two leaders which fell apart with the two sides unable to reach a deal on sanctions relief and denuclearization.

The embarrassing collapse of the summit marked the start of a new cycle of deteriorating relations between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington, D.C.

In the book, Bolton alleges that South Korean President Moon Jae-in had pushed an unrealistic "unification" agenda during talks between the three nations, only to be disappointed by the eventual lack of progress.

South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong dismissed the assertion in a statement, Reuters reported. "It does not reflect accurate facts and substantially distorts facts," Chung said of Bolton's book.

Chung did not detail which parts of the book were inaccurate, but said its publication had set a "dangerous precedent." He added, "Unilaterally publishing consultations made based on mutual trust violates the basic principles of diplomacy and could severely damage future negotiations."

The Hanoi summit fell apart when Trump rejected Kim's offer to dismantle North Korea's main Yongbyon nuclear research facility in exchange for some sanctions being lifted.

In his book, Bolton says Chung communicated Moon's response to the collapse of the Hanoi summit. Moon reportedly said that Trump was right to reject Kim's proposal, though noted the North Korean leader's apparent willingness to dismantle Yongbyon was a "very meaningful first step" on the path to "irreversible" denuclearization. Bolton described Moon's stance as "schizophrenic."

According to The Room Where it Happened, a top South Korean official then told reporters, in response to Bolton's assessment: "Perhaps he is in that condition."

The Trump administration has also rejected Bolton's book as inaccurate and politically motivated. The president called his former national security adviser a "sick puppy" peddling "ridiculous statements" and "pure fiction."

Trump loyalist Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—who features heavily in the book and is said to have vehemently disagreed with several Trump decisions—said Bolton was a "traitor" spreading "a number of lies, fully-spun half-truths, and outright falsehoods."

John Bolton, South Korea, North Korea, book
Former National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks on stage during a public discussion at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina on February 17, 2020. LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images/Getty