WASHINGTON, U.S. President Donald Trump should follow his own instincts in negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, not those of National Security Adviser John Bolton, an American expert said Thursday.
Robert Carlin, who worked on North Korea at the U.S. State Department until 2004, made the case in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times. The article comes as negotiations appear to have hit an impasse following the collapse of February's summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
According to Carlin, Trump did the right thing in agreeing to an unprecedented summit with the North Korean leader last June. He also seemed to be on the right track going into the second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February.
But those efforts to negotiate a denuclearization deal with North Korea were thwarted by Bolton, who insisted on an all-or-nothing agreement, Carlin said.
"At the historic June 2018 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, the president had pragmatically laid aside Bolton's all-or-nothing Libya model in favor of a more feasible approach," the former diplomat wrote. "He'd have been better off to continue that approach in Hanoi. Yet, suddenly the Libya model was back."
Carlin, now a visiting fellow at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, explained that the Libya model reflects Bolton's perception that the African nation gave up its nuclear program in one go and amounts to a "flawed recipe for total, quick surrender by a nuclear state."
In particular, he cited the model's requirements for access by U.S. inspectors to North Korea's nuclear facilities, a halt to all activities related to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and the transfer of all nuclear material to the U.S.
"By and large, this is how the U.S. will want things to be at the end of negotiations, and the North Koreans already know it," Carlin wrote. "The issue during the Hanoi summit, however, was not to confront the North with our preferred final outcomes, but to get the process moving in that direction."
The summit broke down after North Korea offered to dismantle only its main nuclear facility in Yongbyon in exchange for significant sanctions relief from the U.S.
That offer, Carlin said, was vague and unacceptable.
"There was a need for probing, discovery, refinement and counterproposal, if not in the limited time available in Hanoi, then later," he continued.
Instead, according to Bolton, Trump gave Kim a piece of paper that laid out the conditions of a "big deal."
"It was, to paraphrase Bolton circa 2002, a hammer to smash a negotiating process he did not like," Carlin wrote. "Worse, now as then, there is no practical Plan B for when it fails, just a near-religious belief in the efficacy of 'pressure.'"
Carlin held out hope that the negotiations will regain traction after South Korean President Moon Jae-in meets with Trump in Washington next week.
"His instincts on engaging the North Koreans have proven to be sound," Carlin said of the U.S. president. "Following them, we began digging ourselves out from under 17 years of delusion about how to deal with North Korea until the reappearance of Bolton's Libya model put us back in the hole."
The expert warned of the possible consequence of Bolton's approach.
"Abandoning diplomacy again under the tattered flag of 'the big deal or nothing' will have only one result: a North Korea armed with even more nuclear weapons," he said.
Source: Yonhap news Agency