Washington-based Pyongyang watcher Sue-Mi Terry in two series of tweets says early reports missed quite a few details that former National Security Advisor John Bolton has included in his new book about the summits between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
“Bolton has a lot to say about Trump and N Korea in his book,” Terry, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tweeted. “It hasn’t all been reported in the book coverage. A few highlights from his ‘Singapore Sling’ chapter follow:
“Bolton confirms that Trump was desperate to have the summit with Kim at any price because it would be ‘great theater,’ ‘an exercise in publicity.’ There was no detailed preparation, no formal agenda. He was prepared to sign a ‘substantive-free communique.’
“Kim Jong Un asked Trump how he assessed him. Trump said he loved the question and told Kim that he saw him ‘as really smart, quite secretive, a very good person, totally sincere, with a great personality.’
“When leaving the meeting, Kim said he was ‘glad that he and Trump had agreed to follow the “action for action” approach’ and asked if lifting UN sanctions would be next. Trump said he was open to it and wanted to think about it. So Kim left with optimistic expectations.
“On US-ROK [Republc of Korea] joint military exercises, Trump repeatedly complained about how expensive and provocative they are; he saw them as waste of $. So when Kim said he wanted the US to reduce or eliminate exercises, Trump said he would override the generals and do so.
“Neither [then White House Chief of Staff John F.] Kelly, [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo, nor Bolton—who were sitting right there!—were consulted and of course not [then Defense Secretary James] Mattis (who wasn’t there). No consultations with S. Korea either. Trump just gave in to Kim without consulting or notifying anyone.
“Later on, Bolton notes Trump was ‘off riffing that he didn’t understand why we had fought the Korean War and why we still had so many troops on the Peninsula, not to mention those war games.’
“On S. Korea, Bolton criticizes [South Korean President] Moon [Jae-in] for setting an unrealistic expectation with both NK & the US. Bolton writes: ‘This whole diplomatic fandango was South Korea’s creation.’
“Kim likely agrees with Bolton on this point. Kim probably thinks that Seoul oversold & underdelivered. Now Kim is pressuring Seoul to deliver on the sanctions front. But Bolton makes clear Trump also created exaggerated expectations in Singapore.”
Terry, a former US government analyst, begins her second series of tweets by saying: “This is from the chapter on the Hanoi and Panmunjom summits – ‘Checking into the Hanoi Hilton, Then Checking Out.’ She continues:
“Bolton was able to hold 3 pre-Hanoi prep sessions with Trump. Key points Trump took away were: ‘I got leverage,’ ‘I don’t need to be rushed,’ ‘I could walk away.’
“Bolton convinced him that ‘if we walk away, it’s okay,’ because Bolton wanted to sabotage the talks.
“Trump saw 3 possible outcomes from Hanoi: a big deal, a small deal, or ‘I walk.’ He rejected a small deal (not dramatic and he didn’t want to give up sanctions). A big deal wasn’t going to happen because KJU did not make a strategic decision to give up nukes. So ….
“That left the walk-out option. Trump was prepared for it. His philosophy: ‘Ditch the girl before she ditches you.’
“In Hanoi, Trump stayed up all night watching Michael Cohen testify. Trump was irritable & wondered whether ‘it was a bigger story if we got a small deal or if we walked away.’ Trump decided ‘walking away’ was more dramatic and would give him leverage in other negotiations.
“Bolton confirms a deal was close in Hanoi but Kim had nothing to offer except Yongbyun. Trump pleaded with Kim to add something to his offer, but Kim refused. So Trump walked, knowing it would make him look good.
“The third meeting with Kim at the DMZ was entirely Trump’s idea. He first floated it when he was having a sidebar with Merkel in Tokyo at G-20 & tweeted it.
“Bolton, [Former Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick] Mulvaney were flabbergasted & Pompeo saw ‘no value added on this. This is complete chaos.’ Bolton says he felt sick that a stray tweet could result in a summit.
“Why did Trump want the DMZ summit? There was no substantive agenda. It was all about the press coverage. Bolton says this shows Trump ‘couldn’t tell the difference between his personal interests and the country’s interests.’
“Trump lied when he said Kim had asked for the 3rd summit and claimed that ‘Kim wanted to meet him very badly.’ Bolton writes: ‘All of this was nonsense. There was no doubt who wanted to meet badly, and that was the one doing the talking.’
“DMZ summit didn’t achieve anything but Trump was happy that the ‘world had been going crazy over the meeting and that it had taken over the G20 (in his mind),’ because the G20 had been a bust.
“Trump bragged that the NK summits were a huge achievement even though nothing was achieved. Bolton quotes his paeans to Kim and his ‘great and beautiful vision for his country’ with disgust. ‘That was our North Korea policy,’ he writes.
“It’s hard to argue with Bolton’s conclusion: ‘For a 4th administration in a row … the US will have failed to stop the world’s most serious nuclear proliferation threat.” But it’s not clear Bolton had a better policy to offer. (He doesn’t repeat his call for preemptive war.)”
Trump got in a dig at Bolton in a pair of tweets on Thursday that referred to Bolton’s televised April 2018 remarks a couple months before the June Singapore summit:
“When Wacko John Bolton went on Deface the Nation and so stupidly said that he looked at the ‘Libyan Model’ for North Korea, all hell broke out. Kim Jong Un, who we were getting along with very well, went ‘ballistic,’ just like his missiles – and rightfully so….
“….He didn’t want Bolton anywhere near him. Bolton’s dumbest of all statements set us back very badly with North Korea, even now. I asked him, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’ He had no answer and just apologized. That was early on, I should have fired him right then & there!”