By Jonathan Davis
On Sunday, former National Security Adviser John Bolton told Axios during an interview that President Trump is not serious about North Korean denuclearization.
“We’re now nearly three years into the administration with no visible progress toward getting North Korea to make the strategic decision to stop pursuing deliverable nuclear weapons,” said Bolton, who left the Trump administration in September.
“Time is on the side of the proliferator. The more time there is, the more time there is to develop, test and refine both the nuclear component and the ballistic missile component of the program,” Bolton continued.
The idea that we are somehow exerting maximum pressure on North Korea is just unfortunately not true. He said that the administration’s stance that it is unacceptable for Pyongyang to possess nuclear weapons that could strike the United States or its allies is now more of a “rhetorical policy.”
So, what does Bolton recommend? Among other measures sending the U.S. Navy to interdict ships at sea carrying embargoed oil to North Korea. And if Kim Jong-un recommits to nuclear and missile testing, Bolton says the president should essentially work with our allies in the region to stop nuclear missile development militarily.
Attack North Korea, in other words.
Now you know why Bolton is no longer in the Trump administration. The president once quipped that Bolton would have us attacking everyone just to enforce our vision of global security policy; obviously, the president was right.
Whatever successes or failures President Trump has regarding North Korea, he’ll still go down in history as being the first U.S. president to set foot on North Korean soil since the end of the Korean War.
He’s also gotten further than any previous U.S. president because he’s actually met and sat down with a North Korean leader.
Two things: Interdicting ships at sea is risky business. Besides, it could lead to a miscalculation by someone following by a full-scale war. What happens if China-flagged vessels start carrying oil to North Korea? Or Russian-flagged ships? Would Bolton have us interdict and/or destroy those vessels and risk a nuclear confrontation with either country?
As for attacking North Korea, China and Russia would have something to say about that as well, considering both of those countries share a common border with the North. China, in particular, doesn’t want a flood of North Korean refugees flowing into the country, nor does it want a South Korean ally on its borders.
Then there is the problem of nuclear fall-out if the U.S. attacks North Korean nuclear facilities — not something either Russia or China would much like.
It could just be that the U.S. will have to accept a nuclear North Korea, the president’s outreach notwithstanding. But sacrificing tens of thousands of U.S. and South Korean soldiers, as well as risking war with Russia and/or China, doesn’t seem worth it to me, not at this point.
If the North develops deliverable nukes, then the same deal goes for Pyongyang as any other country that possesses them: If you attack us, we’ll destroy you. Should North Korea use a nuke against us, there isn’t anything China or Russia would or could say about our retaliation.
Meantime, the president should continue his outreach — not listen to what Bolton has to say.