Bolton details deal U.S. offered

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Bolton details deal U.S. offered

John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, said Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump offered a “big deal” on denuclearization that also included chemical and biological weapons, as well as ballistic missiles, during the Vietnam summit last week, which was rejected by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Bolton told Fox News Sunday that Trump urged Kim to “take what he called the ‘big deal,’ denuclearization: make the decision, give up the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, give up the ballistic missiles.”

President Trump, according to Bolton, handed Kim “a piece of paper, actually two, one in Korean and one in English, that laid out what we expected there, and in exchange for that you get this well-placed piece of real estate, as the president judges it from his business experience, that could have an extraordinary economic future.”

Bolton, a hard-liner on North Korea, was seated alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, for Trump’s expanded talks with Kim Jong-un last Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam, which ended in a stalemate and no deal.

Kim Jong-un was only accompanied by Kim Yong-chol, the vice chairman of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, who also oversees inter-Korean affairs, and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho. The seat in front of Bolton was left empty, which could have been a diplomatic message.

The summit came to an early end last Thursday when the expanded meeting dragged on later than expected and a planned luncheon and signing ceremony for a joint statement were abruptly canceled.

Bolton did not fly to Vietnam on Air Force One with Trump and the U.S. delegation, instead arriving in Hanoi separately. He did not take part in the small social dinner last Wednesday between Trump and Kim Jong-un, and it was unclear whether he would take part in the extended talks between Kim and Trump until the last minute.

Since before the June 12 North-U.S. summit, Bolton had been the main proponent of including the North’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, its ballistic missile program, and its uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities in a complete denuclearization definition.

Bolton’s remarks, that Trump pushed for a big deal for complete denuclearization, appear contrary to the groundwork prepared by working-level officials helmed by Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, and his Pyongyang counterparts, who seemed to favor a more phased approach.

“I would say the North Koreans were very disappointed we didn’t buy their bad deal,” Bolton told Fox News. “You know, that’s life in the big city.”

Yet Bolton still left the door to diplomacy with North Korea open. He said that Trump “held that door open for North Korea” in the Singapore and Hanoi summits, though “they didn’t walk through it,” and that Trump is “ready to hold it open again.”

Bolton likewise denied that the end of annual springtime joint military exercises with Seoul were concessions by Washington.

Instead, Bolton said Washington currently retains leverage, as strong economic sanctions on North Korea remain in place.

“Our judgment right now is the time works in the favor of the president’s position, as North Korea sees the effect of these sanctions taking a greater effect,” Bolton said. But he pointed out that “over a protracted period of time,” time works “in favor of the proliferator.”

Contrary to critics, Bolton said the Hanoi summit did not fall apart, and that the two leaders “left on good terms.”

Yet Bolton added that there is “no fixed date for a third summit.”

Bolton echoed a similar message on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” on Sunday, saying that in the extensive discussions between the two leaders “the issue really was whether North Korea was prepared to accept what the president called ‘the big deal,’ which is denuclearize entirely under a definition the president handed to Kim Jong-un,” or to “try and do something less than that which was unacceptable to us.”

He described North Korea’s offer to dismantle its key Yongbyon nuclear complex, which includes a nuclear reactor and “some percentage of their uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing capabilities,” a “very limited concession.”

Bolton said, “In exchange, they wanted substantial relief from the sanctions,” which Washington did not agree to.

In a solo press conference Thursday in Hanoi, Trump said he walked away from the table because North Korea had demanded that sanctions be “lifted in their entirety.” Foreign Minister Ri, in a separate press conference, said North Korea requested the partial easing of sanctions - namely recent United Nations Security Council’s sanctions, which he said hamper the livelihoods of ordinary people - in exchange for the permanent dismantlement of its key Yongbyon nuclear complex. “I don’t consider the summit a failure,” said Bolton. “I consider it a success defined as the president protecting and advancing American national interests.”

Despite Trump’s insistence that there is “no rush,” Bolton previously set a one-year timeline for North Korea to denuclearize.

Yet Bolton clarified that the timeline was “operationally how long would it take,” and admitted that there “was some dispute within the U.S. government over a period of time, once North Korea made the strategic decision to give up its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, how long would it take to conduct that dismantlement.” The judgment, he said, was that it could be finished “within a year.”

He added, “there is no expiration date” for negotiations with North Korea.

“The president is fully prepared to keep negotiating at lower levels or to speak to Kim Jong-un again when it’s appropriate,” continued Bolton.

Bolton said Trump expects Kim Jong-un will “want to go back and re-evaluate what happened - certainly we will.” Washington in the meantime will be “continuing the economic sanctions against North Korea, which brought them to the table in the first place.”

He added that the maximum pressure campaign will be kept in place and hinted at a possible tightening of sanctions on the North.

Bolton said, “We were looking at ways to tighten it up, to stop, for example, the ship-to-ship transfers that the North Koreans are using to evade the sanctions, to talk to other countries, to make sure they tighten up on North Korea.”

Bolton also said Trump remains “optimistic on a possible deal,” and that “Kim Jong-un himself said in our last meeting, you know we’re going to go through many stations before we achieve this deal.”

He continued, “The meeting in Hanoi was one such station: so the president is ready to keep talking.”

Bolton said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that Trump “offered North Korea the best deal it could possibly get” and that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

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