Beware of Bolton Undermining Korean Peace

With peace breaking out on the Korean peninsula, beware of National Security Adviser John Bolton’s efforts to sabotage any deal, warns Gareth Porter.

By Gareth Porter

The still-unscheduled Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit offers the opportunity for a denuclearization deal that would avoid a possible nuclear war, but that potential deal remains vulnerable to a hostile corporate media sector and political elites in the United States. At the center of this hostility is national security adviser John Bolton, who’s not just uninterested in selling a denuclearization deal to the public. He’s working actively to undermine it.

Strong circumstantial evidence indicates that he leaked intelligence to a Washington think tank sympathetic to his views in order to generate media questioning about the president’s announced plan to reach an agreement with North Korea’s leader.

Bolton made no secret of his visceral opposition to such a deal before Trump announced that Bolton would become national security adviser, arguing that Kim Jong Un would never let go of his nuclear weapons, especially since he is so close to having a real nuclear deterrent capability vis-a-vis the United States.

Even after meeting Trump on March 6 to discuss joining the administration,

Bolton: Give us your nukes.

Bolton was not expecting the announcement of a Trump-Kim summit. Trump tweeted about progress in talks with North Korea that day, but when asked about such talks in an interview with Fox News later that same day, Bolton dismissed the whole idea. He portrayed Kim’s willingness to have discussions as aimed at diverting Washington’s attention from Pyongyang nearing its goal of having a “deliverable nuclear weapon.”mp-Kim summit was announced on March 9, Bolton made a tactical adjustment in his public stance toward talks with Kim to avoid an open conflict with Trump. He started suggesting in interviews that Trump had cleverly “foiled” Kim’s plan for long, drawn-out talks by accepting the proposal for a summit meeting. But he also urged Trump to assume a stance that would guarantee the meeting would fail.

Bolton’s Alarming Libya Model

In an interview with Fox News on the day of the summit announcement, Bolton suggested a peremptory demand by Trump to Kim: “Tell us what ports should American ships sail in, what airports American planes can land to load your nuclear weapons.” And in a second interview with Fox that day, Bolton suggested that Trump demand that Kim identify the ports and airfields to be used to “dismantle your nuclear program and put it at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where Libya’s nuclear program lives.” Bolton’s invocation of the Libyan example of giving up a nuclear weapons program was an ostentatious way of conveying his intention to keep open the option of using force to overthrow Kim’s regime.

Bolton was staking his opposition to negotiations with Kim primarily on the argument that North Korea would simply exploit such negotiations to complete its testing of a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). But former CIA Director Mike Pompeo got a concrete commitment from Kim to end all tests during their meetings in Pyongyang on April 7-8, which Kim then announced officially on April 20.

Pompeo’s report on Kim’s commitment, coming just before Bolton’s first day in the White House on April 9, immediately vitiated Bolton’s chief argument against a denuclearization agreement. But Bolton had another argument to fall back on. When a Fox News interviewer asked him on March 6 about a possible nuclear testing freeze, Bolton replied, “A freeze won’t work. The only inspections system that you could have with any prospect of finding out what they’re up to would have to be so intrusive it would threaten the stability of the regime.”

As an argument that a testing halt wouldn’t work, that comment was nonsensical: The United States has no intrusive inspections to detect a test of a long-range North Korean missile or of a nuclear weapon. But Bolton could use the need for an intrusive inspection system that North Korea would resist as an argument against a denuclearization agreement. He was well aware that in 2008, Vice President Dick Cheney forced Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to change the agreement she had reached with North Korea in October 2007 to require an intrusive verification system at a different stage of implementation—before the United States had taken North Korea off the terrorism list and ended the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act rather than after that, as had been originally agreed. North Korea refused to accept the new verification demand and then denounced the agreement in late 2008.

The Leak

Pompeo: His commitment at risk. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

Within a few days of Bolton taking over as national security adviser, someone leaked intelligence to a Washington think tank on a North Korean facility allegedly intended to produce nuclear-grade graphite, a key component of nuclear reactors. The leak resulted in a post by David Albright, the executive director of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), on April 20 with satellite images of what he identified as a North Korean nuclear-grade graphite plant. Albright wrote that a “knowledgeable government official” had identified the site of the factory on the Yalu River, which divides North Korea from China.

Albright suggested that the factory “violates the spirit of the upcoming summit processes with the United States and South Korea.” And he concluded that any agreement with North Korea “must contain its verifiable commitments not to proliferate nuclear goods and abide by internationally recognized strategic export control regimes.”

But Albright presented no evidence that the building under U.S. intelligence surveillance had any bearing on negotiations on denuclearization. His report made it clear that analysts had only suspicions rather than hard evidence that it was for nuclear-grade graphite, referring to “the suspect site” and to “the suspect facility.” Albright also admitted that nuclear-grade graphite is a “dual use” material, and that an existing North Korean facility produces it for components of domestic and foreign ballistic missiles, not for nuclear plants.

Albright nevertheless implied that nuclear-grade graphite is produced and traded covertly. In fact, it is sold online by trading companies such as Alibabalike any other industrial item.

On April 21, despite the absence of any real link between the “suspect facility” and a prospective denuclearization agreement, The Washington Post published an article by intelligence reporter Joby Warrick, based on Albright’s post, that suggested such a link. Warrick referred to a “suspected graphite production facility” that could allow North Korea’s “weapons program” to “quietly advance while creating an additional source of badly needed export revenue.”

Adopting Bolton’s key argument against a denuclearization agreement, Warrick wrote, “It is unclear how the United States and its allies would reliably verify a suspension of key facets of North Korea’s nuclear program or confirm that it has stopped selling weapons components to partners overseas.” North Korea has “a long history of concealing illicit weapons activity from foreign eyes,” Warrick argued, adding that, unlike Iran, it “does not allow inspectors to visit its nuclear facilities.”

But Warrick failed to inform readers that North Korea had allowed 24-hour, 7-day-a-week inspections of their nuclear facilities from the time the agreed framework was adopted in 1994 until December 2002, after Bolton had

Bolton with George W. Bush: Nixed Clinton North Korean deal. 1, 2005. (White House Photo)

successfully engineered the George W. Bush administration’s open renunciation of that Clinton administration agreement. And in the negotiations in 2007-08, Pyongyang only had objected to the U.S. demand for intrusive inspection—including military sites—before the United States had ended its suite of hostile policies toward North Korea.

Sabotaging a Deal with Iran

The graphite factory episode would not be the first time Bolton had used alleged intelligence to try to block a negotiated agreement. In early 2004, Bolton, as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, was determined to prevent the British, French and German governments from reaching an accord with Iran that would frustrate Cheney’s plan for an eventual U.S. military option against Iran. Bolton gave satellite images of Iran’s Parchin military complex to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) claiming that they were appropriate for certain kinds of nuclear weapons testing, as Seymour Hersh later reported. Bolton demanded that the IAEA inspect the sites, evidently hoping that Iran would refuse such an intrusive inspection and allow the Bush administration to accuse Iran of hiding covert weapons activities.

But the IAEA failed to refer to the satellite images of Parchin in two 2004 reports on Iran. Then the State Department provided them to ABC News, which reported that a State Department official “confirmed the United States suspects nuclear activity at some of [Parchin’s] facilities.” But the ABC report also quoted a former senior Department of Defense official who specialized in nuclear weapons as saying the images did not constitute evidence of any nuclear weapons-related activities. Iran let the IAEA inspect 10 Parchin sites in two separate visits in 2005. Taking environment samples in each case, the inspectors found no evidence of nuclear-related activity.

Bolton’s hopes of keeping the option of U.S. war on Iran flopped in 2004, but he still believes in a first strike against North Korea, as he urged in an op-edin late February. And he can be expected to continue to use his position in the White House to try to keep that option open as he did with Iran in 2004, in part by covert leaks of information to allies outside the government.

This article was originally published on TruthDig.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian on U.S. national security policy and the recipient of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. His most recent book is Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, published in 2014.


21 comments for “Beware of Bolton Undermining Korean Peace

  1. elmerfudzie
    May 3, 2018 at 11:42

    We’ve all heard the old adage before, twenty-twenty hindsight…well, the Korean regime should have been dealt with immediately following the USS Pueblo incident. At that time the USA was in a position, both militarily and politically to attack North Korea. But that was 1968 and don’t we all wish that our current financial portfolio’s (personal) had the same buying power of the USD back then! My point is this, today, our Western Occident fiat currency system can fail at any moment. Now, is the ideal time, to approach our Pacific allies (yes the Philippines too) and negotiate the transfer of USPACOM over to these closest alliances: Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand as well as secondary allies, the ASEAN group of nations. Better to have BRICS and China contend with it’s nearest neighbors, than a less formidable USA clumsily attempting to project a sustained force that it once possessed in 1968. In exchange for this geopolitical maneuver, that sizable chunk of our naval forces will pay off a few debts and strengthen the T-bond. Back at home, we will being transferring (gradually) the whole process of money printing to the US Treasury Department. Thus, we won’t be closing Social Security Offices, we’ll be closing federal reserve banks, who represent(s) the sum of all our war mongering policies and associated troubles!

    The “Bolton’s” and the ranting nihilists of this world will just simply, fade away…..Let’s do it !!

  2. Kim Dixon
    May 3, 2018 at 11:33

    By invoking Hillary’s warcrimes in Libya, Bolton’s message to Kim could not be clearer:

    Give up nuclear weapons, and be raped and murdered in the streets as your nation is overthrown.

    • Tom F
      May 3, 2018 at 12:19

      Yes, Bolton is also stupid as well as evil, now that’s a really winning combination. The future bodes well.

  3. LarcoMarco
    May 3, 2018 at 01:11

    If Donald “Drain-the-Swamp” Trump, who’s up to his eyeballs in the sewage-contaminated sump, allows Bolton to foment failure of the two-Koreas initiative, he will lose his only chance at presidential greatness.

    Bolton and the Fake News MSM will flip Trump, unless the self-aggrandized Trump realizes he will not share the Nobel Peace Prize with Xi, Moon, and Kim-Un.

    • john wilson
      May 3, 2018 at 04:16

      Trump hasn’t got any chance of greatness no matter what happens. Anyway, I suspect Korea may be put on hold for a while while the deep state expends it’s energy on Iran and Syria. Make no mistake about it, The US will eventually attack North Korea. As for that rsole Trump winning the Nobel prize, Jesus H Christ give it a rest, the only prize this nut job is worthy of is the award for buffoon of the century!!

  4. Abe
    May 2, 2018 at 21:30

    Read the Hasbara troll comments here.

    Hasbara propaganda trolls want “people” to believe in something, anything other than the reality of Israeli meddling in U.S. electoral politics, Israeli interference in American foreign policy, and the destructive real world consequences of pro-Israel Lobby influence.

    Donald Trump assembled a war cabinet of pro-Israel Lobby creatures like John Bolton.

    Hillary “such a nasty woman” Clinton was fully prepared to install her own nasty li’l Israel Firster theater troupe.

    Smack down time for that vaunted global imperial strategy for “securing the realm” is fast approaching.

    So of course, Hasbara troll make-believe “dissenters” loudly whine when their “different opinion” con jobs get no play in the comments at CN.

    • WC
      May 2, 2018 at 22:41

      Anyone reading the Consortium News, let alone the comments section, will be very familiar with “the reality of Israeli meddling in U.S. electoral politics, Israeli interference in American foreign policy, and the destructive real world consequences of pro-Israel Lobby influence”. In fact, anyone with half a brain can see the influence you are talking about, but not everyone views this “meddling” with the same degree of passion you have for the subject. Some simply look at it in terms of picking sides, since that is what American politics is all about. Trump (who is hardly the fool some make him out to be) went with the money. Money buys favors, and that practice is as old as the hills. Add to that the very pressing need to secure the realm before the financial dam bursts, “smack down time” is indeed fast approaching. :)

    • lorem ipsum
      May 3, 2018 at 03:27

      Suppose there was a journalist who knew the truth about Israel’s interference in American foreign policy, but that he realized he could never say so openly because he would not be asked to write articles for newspapers ever again. The journalist would have to find ways of writing about the war in Syria, etc., that only tell part of the story while ignoring Israel’s influence, and only post “safe” articles to his Twitter account. So how will this situation ever improve if these “hypothetical” journalists are trapped and can’t really do anything?

  5. May 2, 2018 at 18:54

    But the flip side of your comment, WC, is why are there so many people who fall for the con jobs? That’s a question not often asked, is it, because sheeple just sit down again and turn on the TV? TV is the state’s greatest conditioner for the mind ever invented. It’s Plato’s Cave, in spades…

    • WC
      May 2, 2018 at 19:46

      People fall for it because they want to believe. Read the comments section here. Everyone wants to believe in something.

      In any fake democracy it is vital to have the all important 51% of the vote (and it doesn’t matter which side they vote for). As you correctly point out the job of the TV is to keep that voting block dumbed down and conditioned.

    • david
      May 2, 2018 at 20:11

      We don’t need lobotomies anymore, we have TV….. John Judge

  6. WC
    May 2, 2018 at 18:09

    The best actors in the world are in politics. Bolton and his handlers have crafted a gun-slinger persona around him and the script he is following was probably written years ago. However, there do come times when improvisation is required, and Bolton deserves credit for being able to smoothly shift gears to tackle any terrain. All of this is make-believe with real world consequences. Throw in the dark-side of the nature of the beast and you have the Greatest Show On Earth. ;)

  7. Joe Tedesky
    May 2, 2018 at 17:32

    I’m curious to what Xi Jinping’s opinion of Trump’s recent Cabinet picks is. I’m also reading in places where Xi Jinping is the real Nobel Prize winner, as he instructed both Korea’s on how to settle the hell down. I’m also not expecting that when the 2 Koreas ask for the removal of America’s missiles, that this request is going to go over well, but we will see how much of a hair cut Raytheon is willing to live with…. I guess? Is this where Bolton appears?

    All and all watching the world turn, and who is in, and who is out, is an exhausting venture to go it alone… so help me out here.

    Shouldn’t we converse about what China, and especially Russia may be thinking with these in and out Trump appointments. To be clear, I’m not saying Trump isn’t an influencer, but their are other moving parts to this Korean peace agreement. Yes, this isn’t the first attempt between the two Koreas to find common ground, but let’s hope people learn from their mistakes. Let’s also hope the U.S. can accept what is born from these alliances being made.

    Bolton is much, much, more than theater, and yes Trump & Kim are representative of something behind the curtain (not sure about Kim he maybe on his own) regardless, the collective effort of the establishment is hard at work here….yet, there’s still that damn leadership title that can get in the way. Hey, Presidents are humans to.(should I write sarcasm there?)

  8. Abe
    May 2, 2018 at 17:17

    Israel is the biggest unfunded U.S. liability that will collapse if the dollar loses its reserve currency status.

    That’s why Bolton, Pompeo, Haley and the rest of “1000 percent” Israel Firster Trump’s li’l theater company, supported by pro-Israel Lobby loyal opposition Democrats, are all getting so busy.

  9. May 2, 2018 at 16:23

    No, Bolton is not theater. Bolton is a psychopath. He lives to stoke war, except he would never go himself. He is completely devoid of compassion and loves power.

  10. WC
    May 2, 2018 at 16:06

    Bolton is theater. The only thing driving any of this is the US $21 trillion debt and its unfunded liabilities, all of which will collapse if the dollar loses its reserve currency status.

  11. Ol' Hippy
    May 2, 2018 at 15:51

    I read this on TruthDig and replied that our enemies are here, within the administration and working in the shadows(deep state, shadow govt) to keep the US in constant conflicts around the world. We could use a purge ala Stalin to get these cretins removed for good. How this monster got appointed is beyond my comprehension. The piece informed me that Bolton was the one that, through Bush II, derailed the Clinton agreement that de-nuclearized N Korea in the 90’s. That’s what got N Korea started on it’s weapon development in ’03 or so.. The US government has a long history of breaking agreements and treaties; just ask the Native Americans about the track record.

  12. Drew Hunkins
    May 2, 2018 at 15:27

    I could be wrong, but part of me feels that the Washington militarist-Zionist power configuration is setting things up as such: they’re working hard right now to clear most of the North Korea imbroglio off the table in order to focus on Hezbollah and Iran. They want to utilize the propaganda points they win from “resolving” the North Korea hullabaloo (of course it was primarily Beijing that did the heavy lifting) in order to parlay it all into sharpening and enhancing the vilification campaign and getting public consciousness on board for an escalated offensive against Tehran and Hezbollah.

    If Tel Aviv had its druthers, the Washington imperialist-militarists would have launched a massive bombing run on Tehran a few years ago. That it hasn’t happened yet proves my point that although the Zionist power configuration is very, very powerful, it’s not omnipotent. American public opinion is still winning out in that Washington fully understands at this point in time US public opinion is strongly against any more military adventures in the Middle East, Maghreb, and South Central Asia. Having acknowledged this, the Iranian people still have a bullseye on their backs.

    What’s tragic is that Iran is probably acting irrationally by NOT developing a massive array of nuclear missiles which could match Israel’s 200+ nukes. With Tehran clearly in the cross hairs, perhaps the Iranian gov’t is doing its people a disservice by failing to build a massive nuclear arsenal, pronto?

    • Tom F
      May 2, 2018 at 16:24

      It would be difficult for Iran to recommence its nuclear weapons program at this late stage. Iran seems to have concentrated its efforts on advanced conventional missile technology, which would likely devastate Israel because of its small size. Of course, Iran might well disappear under a mushroom cloud but this is of no use if Israel is mortally wounded. Hence the push to get the US to do the heavy lifting in Iran, while Israeli watches apparently uninvolved from a safe distance. There’s a sucker born every day.

    • RnM
      May 3, 2018 at 12:17

      Iran doesn’t need to build it’s own nuclear arsenal. That idea comes from the suburban American viewpoint, where everyone has their own arsenal of lawn equipment, and all the other “stuff” that, in a place where people know the value of sharing (i.e., making alliances), is shared and bartered. The Iranians (Persians) now have a clear statement from the Russians, directed at the West, about the folly of attacking their ally. Thus, they have, in fact, already aquired a nuclear deterent.

      What Iran brings to the partnership is the strength of strategic thinking gained from being at the crossroads of human civilization for millennia, and a ground force with religion as a motivator if something serious is called for. Sane people Worldwide want to believe that such an alliance will be enough to give even a John Bolton pause.

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