S. Korea suggested Kim invite Trump to Singapore summit: Bolton memoir
WASHINGTON, Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton has claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un invited President Donald Trump to their first summit in June 2018, at the suggestion of Bolton’s then-South Korean counterpart.
Bolton made the claim in his upcoming memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” recalling his meetings with Chung Eui-yong, director of Cheong Wa Dae’s National Security Office, ahead of the first Trump-Kim summit in Singapore.
“In March, in the Oval, Chung had extended Kim’s invitation to meet to Trump, who accepted on the spur of the moment,” Bolton wrote. “Ironically, Chung later all but admitted that it was he who had suggested to Kim that he make the invitation in the first place!”
Chung traveled to Washington after meeting with Kim in Pyongyang, acting as a messenger for South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his early push for diplomacy with the recalcitrant regime.
“This whole diplomatic fandango was South Korea’s creation, relating more to its ‘unification’ agenda than serious strategy on Kim’s part or ours,” Bolton wrote. “The South’s understanding of our terms to denuclearize North Korea bore no relationship to fundamental U.S. national interests, from my perspective. It was risky theatrics, in my view, not substance.”
Bolton wrote that he urged Chung at a later meeting in April to avoid discussing denuclearization at the upcoming inter-Korean summit on April 27, “to prevent Pyongyang from driving a wedge between South Korea, Japan, and the U.S., one of its favorite diplomatic strategies.”
“I told Trump that we needed the closest possible coordination with Moon Jae-in to avoid North Korea’s engineering a split between Washington and Seoul,” he recalled. “I wanted to preserve U.S.–South Korean alignment, and avoid the headline ‘Trump rejects South Korea compromise,’ but he seemed unconcerned.”
Three days before the inter-Korean summit, Chung returned to Washington.
“I was relieved Chung contemplated that the leaders’ ‘Panmunjom Declaration’ would only be two pages, which meant whatever it said about denuclearization could not be very specific,” Bolton wrote. “I sensed that South Korea believed Kim Jong Un was desperate for a deal because of the pressure imposed by sanctions, and that economic development was the North’s top priority, now that it was a ‘nuclear-weapons state.’ I did not find this reasoning comforting.”
Bolton said that an important part of U.S.-South Korea discussions about the Singapore summit was the topic of a declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the sides technically at war.
“I originally thought the ‘end-of-war declaration’ was the North’s idea, but I later started to suspect that it was Moon’s, emanating from and supporting his reunification agenda, another good reason not to buy it,” Bolton wrote.
“Substantively, the ‘end of war’ idea had no rationale except that it sounded good,” he added. “With the possibility nothing much else would emerge in Singapore, we risked legitimizing Kim Jong Un not only by having him meet with a U.S. President, but also by holding a gauzy ‘peace summit’ undermining economic sanctions by suggesting the North was no longer dangerous, and not just at the nuclear level.”
Bolton said he was determined to stop anything legally binding, and also to minimize the damage of “whatever objectionable document” Trump could agree to.
“I worried about Moon’s pitching Trump on these bad ideas,” he wrote, “but, after all, I couldn’t stop it.”
Source: Yonhap News Agency