(CNSNews.com) – The administration’s team working on North Korean denuclearization was not “starry-eyed,” but knew full well the regime’s history of dragging out talks while advancing its WMD and ballistic missile programs, National Security Advisor John Bolton said Sunday.
At the same time, Bolton told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the administration believes that, if Pyongyang cooperates, “the overwhelming bulk” of its WMD and missile programs could be dismantled “within a year.”
He declined to comment on media reports citing U.S. intelligence sources as saying that Kim Jong Un does not intend to reveal all his nuclear facilities and surrender his weapons.
While Bolton said reports on how well or otherwise things were going were not helpful, he also pushed back at any suggestion that the administration is approaching the matter naively.
“We’re very well aware of North Korea’s patterns of behavior over decades of negotiating with the United States,” he said.
“We know exactly what the risks are of them using negotiations to drag out the length of time they have to continue their nuclear, chemical, biological weapons programs and ballistic missiles.”
Bolton said the administration was pursuing what Trump and Kim had agreed to at their summit in Singapore last month.
“But rather than have a series of reports – things are going better, things are not going well, they are concealing this, they’re not concealing that – really, it doesn’t serve the purpose of advancing the negotiations.”
“But there’s not any – any starry eyed feeling among the group doing this,” he said. “We’re well, well, well aware of what the North Koreans have done in the past.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said recently the administration hopes to achieve “major disarmament” of North Korea by the time Trump’s first term ends in two-and-a-half years’ time
But Bolton disclosed an even more ambitious timeframe: U.S. experts have devised a program, he said, that would physically allow for the dismantling of “the overwhelming bulk of their [WMD and ballistic missile] programs within a year.”
He tied that to two conditions – the North Koreans’ cooperation, and “full disclosure of all of their chemical and biological, nuclear programs, ballistic missile sites.”
Bolton said Pompeo would likely be discussing the plan with the North Koreans soon. The secretary is expected to visit Pyongyang in the coming days.
‘Feeling of repugnance’
Bolton’s history of official involvement with North Korea began long before his appointment as Trump’s national security advisor earlier this year.
As undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs during the George W. Bush administration, he held a key post at a time when Kim Jong Il was found in 2002 to have been cheating on a denuclearization deal struck by the Clinton administration eight years earlier.
When Bolton in a 2003 speech described Kim Jong Il as a “tyrannical dictator,” Pyongyang called him “human scum” and refused to deal with him in the six-party talks process that was about to begin.
In the years that followed, the multilateral diplomacy aimed at resolving the crisis witnessed the continuing “patterns of behavior” referred to by Bolton Sunday, as the regime dragged out the talks even as it pushed ahead with illicit nuclear activities.
By the time North Korea tested its first nuclear bomb in 2006, Bolton was serving as Bush’s ambassador to the U.N.
During his 16-month term, he shepherded through two unanimous Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea, including one setting up a committee that continues to oversee sanctions against the regime to this day.
More than a decade later, Bolton’s return to government service came at a time when the regime was looking to negotiate again, after Trump launched a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions in response to stepped up threats and a sustained period of missile and nuclear testing.
Shortly after taking up his post in April, Bolton became a target of Pyongyang’s vitriol again, after suggesting that North Korean denuclearization efforts follow a “Libya model.”
Although Bolton was talking about the technicalities of an agreement struck with Muammar Gaddafi in 2003, rather than his fate in 2011 (when he was killed by Libyan rebels following NATO military intervention), North Korea threatened to walk away from the envisaged summit with Trump, and declared a “feeling of repugnance” towards Bolton.
When the summit did go ahead in Singapore last month, Bolton was one of three top officials at Trump’s side, along with Pompeo and chief of staff John Kelly.
North Korean state media footage showed Bolton shaking hands with a smiling Kim Jong Un.