Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily to discuss his latest op-ed, “America’s Decision on North Korea Hinges on Trump’s Asia Trip.”
Bolton said Trump’s talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan demonstrated “beyond doubt that the U.S.-Japan alliance generally, but specifically with respect to North Korea’s weapons, is rock solid.”
“It’s something that Abe has been concerned about his entire political career,” Bolton noted. “He’s made it clear, in a quiet Japanese politician kind of way, that he will support the use of force against North Korea if that becomes necessary.”
“South Korea is more complicated,” he continued. “The president there takes a much softer line on North Korea. It’s a mistake in my view. I think the president threaded the needle there. He gave a great speech to the South Korean National Assembly, I think it was very well received in South Korea.”
“He sent an unmistakable message to North Korea and China that when he says ‘denuclearization of North Korea,’ that’s what he means. He doesn’t mean more negotiations, he doesn’t mean freezing the program while we talk because it’s so close to the finish line. He means denuclearization. We all hope that it will be done peacefully, but the implicit next step, obviously, is that if it’s not done peacefully that we’ll do it militarily,” Bolton said of Trump’s speech.
Marlow asked Bolton why he was “skeptical of Seoul’s resolve,” as he indicated in his op-ed piece.
“Well, the Korean population is very divided on how to handle North Korea,” Bolton replied. “I mentioned President Moon is the advocate of a version of the so-called ‘Sunshine Policy’ that takes a soft line. But the leader of the opposition, just a week or so before the president’s visit, very concerned about North Korea’s belligerence, called for the United States to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea. Even President Moon’s own defense minister said that was a subject we ought to have a discussion on.”
“Now obviously South Korea could be impacted if we had to use military force,” he observed. “If the regime in North Korea collapses, South Korea – like China – faces a potential influx of millions of North Korean refugees.”
“We have always tried to make sure there was no daylight between us in South Korea that the North or China could exploit. I think that’s a wise policy,” he said. “I think we ought to keep at it – but at the end of the day, the president’s job is to protect American citizens, and South Korea is going to have to face up to that. We hope it’s not necessary, but that’s why persuading South Korea that military force might be necessary is important. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think the president’s trip solidified support for the United States. I think the president came out well. So I really think he accomplished a lot there.”
Bolton said the “big question mark” about President Trump’s trip to Asia is whether he was able to make real inroads with China.
“There’s no doubt the Beijing stop was the most important of the five countries that he visited. I hope the president told Xi Jinping in clear and unmistakable terms that we are not going to accept North Korea with nuclear weapons, that we can either change course from the past 25 years – where China, to be honest, has two-timed us on North Korea – and work constructively together to denuclearize North Korea, which would be the easy way to do it, or the United States is prepared to look at the hard way, which is military force. That would have a dramatic impact on China as well,” he said.
“We don’t know exactly what the president said. We don’t know how Xi Jinping responded. But I would just say, it’s particularly important with respect to China, but it’s important for the whole North Korean question: we don’t have much time,” Bolton stressed.
“We’ve spent 25 years trying to talk North Korea out of nuclear weapons, and it’s failed. Everybody acknowledges that. Mike Pompeo, CIA director, said a few weeks ago they’re within months of being able to hit any target they want in the continental United States. So we’re not in here for a seminar on life in North Korea. We want to know what the Chinese are going to do to help us now,” he said.
Bolton warned that the moment is fast approaching when the Western world will not only be unable to stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un from developing a nuclear shield that sweeps military options against his regime off the table, but also unable to stop him from selling nuclear weapons to other rogue regimes and terrorists.
“That’s why even Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s national security adviser, acknowledged in an op-ed in the New York Times a few months ago that these policies over 25 years have failed. She’s perfectly happy to accept North Korea with nuclear weapons, perfectly happy to see if deterrence and containment can work against this bizarre regime as it did against the Soviet Union,” he said.
“I am not content with that,” Bolton declared. “I don’t want to go back to those wonderful days where we did ‘duck and cover’ drills in elementary schools because we feared that some fruitcake is going to put his finger on the button. I think what we say about this autocratic regime in North Korea we can say equally about the ayatollahs in Iran. These are not regimes where I want to see if the calculus of deterrence works as well as it did with Russia during the Cold War.”
“Just one other point quickly there: once Iran and North Korea get nuclear weapons, we are in a multipolar nuclear world,” he added. “The other thing you can say about the Cold War was as dangerous as it was, it was a bipolar standoff essentially between us and the Soviets. The calculus, thank God for all of us, developed that there was no nuclear exchange.”
“In a multipolar nuclear world, which none of us have ever lived in, the deterrence calculus gets very, very different because Pakistan looks at India, India looks at China, North Korea looks at Japan, Iran when they get nuclear weapons looks at Saudi Arabia,” he explained. “We’ve already seen the beginnings of a nuclear weapons race there, the Saudis, the Egyptians, Turks, taking steps to get their own indigenous capabilities.”
“That’s why I’ve been so insistent for so many years that the only answer here is to stop these countries like North Korea from getting nuclear capabilities in the first place,” he said.
Bolton said President Trump appears optimistic about the outcome of his meetings with President Xi, but the historical record of dealings with China on North Korea is “not good.”
“China has said one thing and done another to us on North Korea’s nuclear weapons for 25 years. I hope that the president has convinced them that he’s very serious,” he said. “I think it is important that when Xi Jinping came and visited the president at Mar-a-Lago, at that dinner they were having when the president came up just before dessert and told the Chinese leader that he had just launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria’s chemical weapons program, I think that had an impact. This is not Barack Obama’s White House. It is not Neville Chamberlain in the White House.
Marlow concluded by asking Bolton for his thoughts on the apparent coup in Zimbabwe, which may bring an end to decades of misrule by strongman Robert Mugabe.
“I think it’s certainly a plus that Mugabe is finally out of power,” said Bolton. “Zimbabwe has a lot of potential. I visited there in 1982 during the Reagan administration. People were optimistic. But Mugabe created an authoritarian society, he all but destroyed the economy, and there are a lot of people who would just continue the totalitarian regime with a different leader.”
“This is an opportunity, there is no doubt about it. Let’s hope the Zimbabweans can put together a representative government with free-market policies and develop the country’s tremendous human potential,” he said.
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