‘North Korea nuclear programme could be gone within a year,’ according to security adviser John Bolton
Bolton told CBS’s Face the Nation that Washington has devised a programme to dismantle North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes in a year.
“If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they’re cooperative, we can move very quickly,” he said. “Physically we would be able to dismantle the overwhelming bulk of their programmes within a year.”
He said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will likely discuss that proposal with the North Koreans soon. The Financial Times reported that Pompeo was due to visit North Korea this week but Reuters has not been able to confirm his travel plans.
North Korea agreed at the summit to “work toward denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” but the joint statement signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US, President Donald Trump gave no details on how or when Pyongyang might surrender its nuclear weapons.
Pompeo told reporters the day after the Singapore summit on June 12 that Washington hoped to achieve “major disarmament” by North Korea within Trump’s current term, which ends on January 20, 2021.
Bolton said the United States was going into nuclear negotiations aware of Pyongyang’s failure to live up to its promises in the past.
“We know exactly what the risks are – them using negotiations to drag out the length of time they have to continue their nuclear, chemical, biological weapons programmes and ballistic missiles,” he said.
“There’s not any starry-eyed feeling among the group doing this,” he said. “We’re well aware of what the North Koreans have done in the past.”
Later, appearing on Fox News, Bolton defended Trump’s decision to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki this month as a way to get beyond the “political noise” that has consumed Washington over the ongoing investigation of Russian election interference.
Bolton said the summit would be “somewhat unstructured” especially during the leaders’ one-on-one time, to avoid “the pressure of immediate deadlines or crises”.
“He wants to understand the Russian position, but, more importantly, he wants Putin to understand our position,” Bolton said. “Let them discuss these issues and see exactly where there might be room for progress or where we find there is no room at all.”
Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin on July 16, several days after he stops in Brussels for a Nato summit. The president has been critical of Nato, suggesting that other member nations do not contribute enough to the alliance and that the United States carries too much of the burden.
Bolton dismissed a question about whether Trump has been more willing to criticise US allies than authoritarian leaders of rival nations, including Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Trump feuded with G7 leaders during a summit in Canada last month over trade, abruptly dropping support for a routine joint statement. The president also suggested that Russia, which was kicked out of the group after it annexed Crimea in 2014, be invited back into the organisation.
“I don’t read the way he conducted these meetings the same way,” Bolton told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. “I don’t think anybody ought to have a case of the vapours over discussions we have in Nato or the G7 versus discussions we have with Putin or Kim Jong-un. They’re very, very different; the president treats them differently. He understands what the strategic interests are, and that’s what he’s trying to pursue.”
Although US intelligence officials have stated unequivocally that Russian agents sought to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump has continued to cast doubt on those conclusions. Last summer, during his first one-on-one meeting with Putin, in Hamburg, Trump said that he questioned him about the interference accusations and that the Russian leader denied it.