South Korea says Bolton’s claims on Trump-Kim summit distorted

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South Korea says Bolton’s claims on Trump-Kim summit distorted

Then-national security adviser John Bolton listens as President Trump speaks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a meeting at the White House on May 22, 2018.
Then-national security adviser John Bolton listens as President Trump speaks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a meeting at the White House on May 22, 2018. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

By Min Joo Kim and John Hudson June 22, 2020 at 5:12 a.m. MDT

SEOUL — Former national security adviser John Bolton’s account of nuclear talks between the United States and the two Koreas is incorrect and distorted, Seoul’s Presidential Office said Monday, echoing the Trump administration’s accusations against the soon-to-be-published exposé by the former top aide.

In his new memoir giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Washington’s dealings on foreign affairs, Bolton describes how President Trump’s engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to achieve its goal of getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

Bolton’s tell-all account of the 17 months he served as Trump’s national security adviser has made waves not only in Washington but also among diplomatic partners of the United States, as excerpts from the book were released in media reports over the past few days.AD

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Chung Eui-yong, national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, accused Bolton of “being inaccurate” in his memoir and “distorting the reality.”

“Unilaterally revealing discussions made based on mutual trust among states violates the fundamental principles of diplomacy and could undermine future negotiations,” Chung said in a statement via a presidential spokesman.

Chung did not specify which parts of Bolton’s memoir he claimed were inaccurate or distorted. Chung said he expects Washington to take appropriate action against such a “dangerous precedent” set by Bolton’s exposé, which he said could undermine the mutual interests of the United States and its ally, South Korea.

In 2018, Chung delivered to Trump a meeting invitation from North Korean leader Kim, saying he was “committed to denuclearization.” He went on to play a significant role in the ensuing encounters between Trump and Kim to negotiate the nuclear disarmament of North Korea.

“This whole diplomatic fandango was South Korea’s creation, related more to its ‘unification’ agenda than serious strategy on Kim’s part or ours,” Bolton wrote in his book, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post before its release on Tuesday.

Bolton believed that the Moon administration’s agenda was more to improve relations with its northern neighbor than to get a substantial denuclearization commitment from Pyongyang. He accused Moon of overselling to Trump and Kim the benefits of engagement and thereby leading to a discrepancy in expectations.AD

Ahead of Trump’s unprecedented first summit with the North Korean leader in 2018, Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had growing concerns that Trump would compromise U.S. foreign policy interests out of desperation for a deal.

Neither Bolton nor Pompeo trusted Trump, especially during his conversations with South Korea’s president, Bolton wrote. The two men listened in on the calls and shared their disdain, with Bolton telling Pompeo it was a “near-death experience” for him, and Pompeo, who had been traveling in the Middle East, responding that he was “having a cardiac arrest in Saudi Arabia.”

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After the first meeting with the North Korean leader in 2018, Trump declared that there is “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” The thawing of tensions was abruptly reversed when the second summit last year collapsed due to disagreements over lifting sanctions in exchange for disarmament steps by North Korea.AD

A longtime hawk on North Korea, Bolton said Trump put U.S. interests in danger because he was so “swept up in the rapture” of getting a historic photo op with the North Korean leader.

The Trump administration’s bid to block the release of Bolton’s book was denied by a federal judge on Saturday.

Hudson reported from Washington.

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