John Bolton is living in a greater fantasy world than Donald Trump, if that’s possible. He was on the Sunday shows telling everyone that Trump was able to forego months of preparation for the June 12 Summit in Singapore because of his innate ability to “size people up” which, in John Wayne-esque style, was apparently going to enable Trump to bully Kim Jong Un into submission without any preparation studying facts or policy. There isn’t a comic book on the racks this simplistic and ludicrous, but this is the state of American foreign policy in 2018.
WH Nat’l Security Adviser John Bolton tells @MarthaRaddatz permanent, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization “has to happen before the benefits start to flow” to North Korea. “We want to see the denuclearization process so completely underway that it’s irreversible.” pic.twitter.com/v4YWZJ3kzj
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) May 13, 2018
As Bolton told ABC’s Martha Raddatz,“We want to see the denuclearization process so completely underway that it’s irreversible.” Getting specific, he said that North Korea’s nuclear warheads, under inspection, should be shipped to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they would be systematically destroyed at the nuclear research center run by the Department of Energy.
The gut response to that comment has nothing to do with Bolton’s hawkish or conservative reputation. Rather, the question is: “What was he thinking?” or “Who was he kidding?” or “Was he out of his mind?” Does any sane person think Kim is going to open the doors to the Yongbyon nuclear complex, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, where his engineers and technicians have fabricated about 40 to 60 warheads by now?
And Bolton did not stop there. The North Koreans, he said, would have to reveal all the places they’re working on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to make sure they’re living up to their agreement. That comment, aside from raising questions about Bolton’s basic judgment, calls into question his knowledge or understanding of North Korea. The image of a bunch of nosy foreigners poking around hundreds of caves and redoubts and tunnels where the North Koreans may be stashing that stuff is fantasy. It’s not going to happen. Not as long as Kim is in charge.
Furthermore, John Bolton is not exactly commanding loads of respect from North Korea.
In a statement carried by the North Korean news agency, obviously with Kim Jong Un’s approval, the first vice-minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye Gwan feigned something close to heartbreak on hearing such “unbridled remarks” being “recklessly made” in the United States, and singled out Bolton in particular: “We do not hide our feeling of repugnance toward him.”
This sort of idiocy is what you get when Fox News spins fact into fantasy and then the Trump administration believes it. There has been great outcry and ballyhoo about the closure of the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri, in the mountains of Pyongyang, which will take place between May 23 and May 25. This is going to be carried live on TV and this single event has been interpreted by Trump and cohorts as meaning that Kim Jong Un is somehow intimidated by Trump and is going to denuclearize the peninsula. That is folly. All that’s going on in reality is that the Punggye-ri site was rendered inoperable. The last of six tests was so powerful that it collapsed part of the mountain in which it’s contained and seismic tremors were felt all over the region. When a photo op shutting it down is being played on television the new facility at Yongbyon is going to be up and running and you’re not going to hear a word about it.
North Korea and South Korea will negotiate rail and road traffic at the June 12 Summit but Trump’s big scene of swaggering in taking charge with cowboy diplomacy is limited only to his and John Bolton’s dreams.