The South Korean news service Yonhap confirmed on Wednesday that U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton is going to Singapore next week when President Donald Trump is scheduled to hold a historic summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Bolton, considered one of the Trump administration officials least amenable to compromise with the repressive communist regime, has remained largely out of the public eye since insisting in interviews in April that any denuclearization deal with Pyongyang should emulate the “Libya model,” in which the rogue regime’s nuclear assets were shipped to the United States for verification and destruction. The remark triggered a tirade against Bolton in North Korean media that ultimately led to Trump’s canceling the summit before abruptly rescheduling it last week.
“In response to a query from Yonhap, a White House National Security Council official confirmed that Bolton will travel to Singapore, but it was unclear whether he would sit at the table with the North Koreans,” the outlet reported.
Yonhap notes that Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence, also considered a hardliner on North Korea, were not present for North Korean envoy and U.S.-designated terrorist Kim Yong-chol’s visit to the White House last week, though Trump told reporters his presence was meant exclusively to deliver a letter from Kim Jong-un, and their two-hour meeting occurred spontaneously.
Bolton’s presence in Singapore was not guaranteed after North Korean state media railed against him in multiple articles last month. North Korea’s state newspaper Rodong Sinmun accused Bolton of “simple thinking, racism and the narrow-minded America First policy” and described him personally as “sinister” and “absurd.”
“We shed light on the quality of Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him,” Vivian Balakrishnan, first vice minister of Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said of the top national security official.
Rodong Sinmun and the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), another official state outlet, have spent more than a decade condemning John Bolton for his consistent stances against human rights abuses and belligerent threats from the rogue regime.
Bolton will join President Trump and what is believed to be a short list of American diplomats for the Singapore meeting on Tuesday, likely including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The unofficial guest list of individuals flying into Singapore while the summit occurs, however, has been growing daily, now including former White House aide Sebastian Gorka, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who has made several trips to North Korea and describes Kim Jong-un as a “friend.” North Korea has not made public any list of individuals in their delegation to Singapore. The White House has not confirmed that anyone outside of the official government will participate in the meeting itself.
Balakrishnan has confirmed that national officials will also be at hand if necessary, though he did not suggest that Singaporean representatives will have a substantive role in discussions. Instead, Balakrishnan said during a visit to Washington, the country will serve as host.
“It’s in a sense our contribution to world peace,” he said, according to the country’s Straits Times. “I’m confident we will do our best as hosts. I tell both the North Koreans and the Americans, we are there to serve tea and coffee.”
“The fact that the summit is even occurring is significant in its own way,” Balakrishnan added. “For the President of the United States to sit with the leader of North Korea across the table and to have all the issues laid out for them to have a frank discussion is a significant step.”
The State Department has remained mum on the potential topics for the Singapore summit, though denuclearization and a potential end to the Korean War appear to be on the list. In remarks to reporters following his meeting with Kim Yong-chol last week, President Trump described the meeting as “getting-to-know-you meeting plus,” emphasizing that denuclearization and diplomatic rapprochement is a “process” and he does not expect an end to bilateral tensions after one meeting.
“We’re not going to go in and sign something on June 12,” Trump asserted.
The summit is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. local time.