‘I don’t blame Kim Jong Un’: In dismissing Bolton, Trump sides with North Korean leader — again
Having ousted John Bolton from the White House, President Trump delivered a kick to his former national security adviser to illustrate just how far he had fallen. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the president said, “wanted nothing to do with” him during diplomatic talks over the past 17 months.
“I don’t blame Kim Jong Un,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.
Trump’s remarks on Wednesday revealed lingering resentment that, in his view, Bolton had threatened to derail the United States’ historic first summit with Kim last year by taking an unnecessarily provocative position in suggesting that Pyongyang must follow the “Libya model” and relinquish all of its nuclear weapons under any prospective deal.
Trump’s willingness to publicly side with Kim over a recently departed senior aide marked the latest in a string of extraordinary episodes in which he has aligned himself with one of the world’s most brutal dictators against individual Americans, the intelligence community, the military and U.S. allies.
Since the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February collapsed without a deal, Trump has sought to rekindle dormant bilateral negotiations by flattering Kim — but also by offering him political cover on a list of provocations that cut against U.S. interests.
This summer alone, the president has:
●Reiterated his belief that joint U.S.-South Korea military drills are “ridiculous and expensive” — this time after receiving a personal letter from Kim complaining about the exercises.
●Declared that the North’s testing of short-range missiles did not violate an agreement with Kim, prompting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to call the tests a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
●Endorsed, while on a state visit to Tokyo, North Korean state media’s mockery of former vice president Joe Biden as a “fool of low IQ,” saying he agreed.
●Stated that he would not have authorized using Kim’s family members as spies against the regime amid reports that the CIA had cultivated the dictator’s half brother as an intelligence asset. (Kim Jong Nam was assassinated in Malaysia in 2017, at the North Korean leader’s direction, according to South Korea’s spy agency.)
Former U.S. officials said Trump’s approach with Kim fits his pattern of trying to maintain good personal relationships with hostile foreign leaders in hope that it will pay off at the negotiating table. Yet they emphasized that the strategy has not led to breakthroughs on Trump’s biggest foreign policy initiatives, including an effort to secure a trade deal with China.
“It’s his idea that you have to be utterly obsequious with your negotiating partner to suggest you’re a good guy and they should deal with you,” said Christopher Hill, who served as the lead negotiator in the George W. Bush administration during the Six Party Talks with North Korea. “Of course, he’s got very little to show for it. The North Koreans have just pocketed it.”
Although Trump has emphasized that Kim has abided by a private pledge in Singapore to refrain from testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, experts say the North has improved the accuracy and maneuverability of its short-range arsenal.