Dec 10, 2019

Bolton knocks Trump administration for latest North Korea decision

Trump and Kim at the DMZ. Photo: Handout/Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images

John Bolton, President Trump's former national security adviser, is publicly criticizing the Trump administration's decision to stymie a United Nations Security Council meeting on North Korea's human rights abuses.

Driving the news: "We should take the lead, not obstruct other nations," Bolton tweeted on Tuesday.

Between the lines: Bolton, who's already spoken out about what he views as Trump's misguided courtship of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, tagged me in his tweet — a sign that his latest criticism was in reference to the recent Trump administration decision at the UN.

I had tweeted a link to this New York Times story, which reported:

  • "The Trump administration has refused to support a move by members of the United Nations Security Council to hold a discussion Tuesday on North Korea's rampant human rights abuses, effectively blocking the meeting for the second year in a row."
  • "The American action appeared aimed at muting international criticism of Pyongyang’s human rights record in the hope of preserving a tenuous diplomatic opening between President Trump and Kim Jong-un."

The big picture: Administration officials have expressed concern about an escalation in recent weeks of tensions with North Korea.

  • Trump and Kim are trading insults again, as they did in 2017 when some senior administration officials worried the two countries were on a path to conflict.
  • North Korean officials have been issuing vague threats ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline that Kim set for Trump to make concessions including the lifting of sanctions. Trump has shown no desire to capitulate to North Korea's demands.
  • Per NYT: "North Korean officials have warned that their government might end its self-imposed moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests if Washington does not meet Mr. Kim's Dec. 31 deadline. A vice foreign minister of North Korea warned last week that it was up to Washington to decide what kind of 'Christmas gift' it would receive from Pyongyang."

Go deeper

Exclusive: John Bolton hits Trump for bluffing on North Korea nukes

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Ed Jones/AFP, Saul Loeb/AFP, Brendan Smialowski/AFP, and Sergei Gapon/AFP all via Getty Images

In his sharpest criticism yet of his old workplace, John Bolton suggested the Trump administration is bluffing about stopping North Korea's nuclear ambitions — and soon might need to admit publicly that its policy failed badly.

Driving the news: Bolton told me in an interview that he does not think the administration "really means it" when President Trump and top officials vow to stop North Korea from having deliverable nuclear weapons — "or it would be pursuing a different course."

Go deeperArrowDec 22, 2019

Evidence of new work at North Korea site linked to long-range missiles

Kim Jong-un flanked by military officials, 2017. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea has begun fresh work at a factory involved in the development and production of intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, per satellite images shared by Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Why it matters: Lewis said on Saturday that Pyongyang is expanding work at the March 16 Factory in Pyongsong, where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "watched preparations" for the 2017 test of the Hwasong-15 missile, which was theoretically capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Go deeperArrowDec 22, 2019

Kim Jong-un announces end to moratorium on nuclear weapon tests

Kim Jong Un giving his New Year's speech on Dec. 30, 2019. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in a New Year's speech that his country would abandon a self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, declaring that there "will never be denuclearization on the Korean peninsula" unless the U.S. drops its "hostile" policies, according to state media.

Why it matters: North Korea has not conducted a nuclear or long-range missile test in more than two years, hoping for a breakthrough in negotiations spurred by Kim's friendly personal relationship with President Trump, according to the New York Times. Trump has often touted this moratorium as a diplomatic achievement.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 1, 2020