US national security advisory John Bolton. CBS screen grab
US national security advisory John Bolton. CBS screen grab

White House national security advisor John Bolton did his best to dampen enthusiasm for efforts underway to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula on Sunday, recalling what is widely considered to have ultimately been a disastrous foreign policy in Libya.

“If [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] has made a strategic determination that North Korea would be better off without nuclear weapons then I think we’ve got something to talk about,” Bolton said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

When asked whether the North would have to give up all nuclear weapons before any concessions would be offered, Bolton cited previous efforts in Libya.

“I think that’s right, I think we’re looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004,” Bolton said.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi agreed to eliminate his nation’s program to develop nuclear weapons, only to be ousted years later by US coalition-backed forces. Analysts have noted that in the aftermath of Gaddafi’s removal from rule, and subsequent brutal death, other countries would be reluctant to nix weapons of mass destruction programs, which could serve a deterrent to regime change.

Bolton went on to echo widespread skepticism among observers that the Kim regime will commit to full denuclearization.

“We’re also looking at what North Korea itself has committed to previously. And most importantly, I think, going back over a quarter of a century to the 1992 joint denuclearization agreement where North Korea committed to giving up nuclear weapons, and committed uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing,” he said

Whether the Libyan deal in 2003 would make an appropriate model for denuclearization in North Korea is up for debate. But by bringing it up Bolton also reminds US foes why they might not want to give up their weapons.

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