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Ambassador John R. Bolton, a diplomat and a lawyer, has spent many years in public service. From August 2005 to December 2006, he served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations. From 2001 to 2005, he was under secretary of state for arms control and international security. At AEI, Ambassador Bolton’s area of research is U.S. foreign and national security policy. Follow him @AmbJohnBolton

 

Fred Fleitz:

Welcome back to Secure Freedom Radio, my name is Fred Fleitz substituting for Frank Gaffney. My guest today is my former boss and good friend, Ambassador John Bolton. He is a Senior Policy Fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, a former permanent representative to the United Nations, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and one of our nations leading experts on national security. Ambassador Bolton, welcome!

Amb. John Bolton:

Glad to be with you, thanks for having me.

Fred Fleitz:

Ambassador, I wanted to talk to you today, I want to grill down on the growing crisis with North Korea and I’d like to start off by asking you to give an overview of the latest developments, particularly this threat by North Korea to attack Guam by surrounding it with missile attacks.

Amb. John Bolton:

Well I think this shows, for anyone who’s really paying attention to North Korea, just how erratic, how bizarre this regime is. Obviously they’re concerned about Guam because the U.S has B-52 bombers and other very sophisticated air and missile systems available there. It constitutes American territory, and North Korea sees it as a threat to them. But precisely because it is American territory, if they were to carry true with this attack it would be really required by the President to retaliate massively against North Korea. You hear many pundits saying today, ‘Oh you know, North Korea doesn’t want to commit suicide, they’re rational people, we can negotiate with them.’ I beg to differ on that, they are rational in a bizarre world that makes sense to them but they are not rational in our terms. And that’s why its unacceptable to allow North Korea to have any nuclear capability, not just with ballistic missile delivery system, but any nuclear capability, so they can’t sell it to terrorist groups, they can’t put weapons on trans steamers and sail them into American harbors. This is a very dangerous regime and the kind of rhetoric we’ve seen from them I think demonstrates how dangerous and erratic they are.

Fred Fleitz:

You know, many critics of the Trump administration are saying, ‘Look let’s just return to talks, let’s resume negotiations.’ Now I remember well your efforts to get the us out of the Clinton Administration nuclear deal with North Korea, the agreed framework when you were Secretary of State for Arms Control. Could you talk about that experience and how that should influence the Trump administration’s thinking today?

Amb. John Bolton:

Well I think the North Korean performance under the agreed framework tells you everything you need to know about dealing with North Korea, about reaching agreements with them and what commitments by North Korea are worth when they say they will give up their nuclear program. North Korea in the past 25 years has solemnly pledged on at least four separate occasions to give up their nuclear weapons program and they’ve violated every commitment. What they want to do is negotiate endlessly to get tangible economic benefits in return for them making a pledge to give up their program, which they then don’t carry out but try and accumulate as much of the benefits as they can. It’s a tactic very similar to what Iran has used and in the case of the agreed framework which president Clinton said would bring peace and security to all of northeast Asia. When the Bush Administration came in, it became clear that North Korea had been violating the agreed framework before the ink was dry on it. Which was why we had to get out of it in order to try to put more pressure on them. The fact is I don’t think North Korea is ever voluntarily going to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. And its also the case that even if there were more negotiation, oh I think North Korea has no credibility. Those negotiations themselves benefit North Korea, time is a valuable resource, time is not a neutral feature. People say, ‘what can it hurt to talk with them, what do you lose?’ The answer is you lose time. Time is the asset for the would-be proliferator. And today, we see estimates that North Korea may have as many as 60 nuclear warheads. But at least as of now if that estimate is correct, it is doubtful they have 60 ballistic missiles. At the end of 6 months, or 9 months, or 12 months of negotiation, they may well have it. So time is on the side of the proliferator. I think we are out of time to try to pressure the North Koreans. I think we’ve only got one diplomatic play yet, that’s the possibility of trying to persuade China that everybody would be better off if we reunited the two Koreas. That’s a hard argument to make. But it doesn’t involve negotiating with North Korea, it involves negotiating with China. And if we are not prepared to pursue that, then President Trump’s options are very limited and very unpleasant.

Fred Fleitz:

You’re listening to Secure Freedom Radio, my guest is Ambassador John Bolton. Ambassador Bolton, you recently wrote in Wall Street Journal on August 2nd that there are U.S. military options for North Korea, could you discuss what those options are?

Amb. John Bolton:

Well, there’s a really huge range of them, from covert action against the regime or against some of its assets, destroying their nuclear facilities, their ballistic missile test sites, their submarine launching sites and even beyond that. And the question that I think the President will have to grapple with very soon because there will come a day where he sees a missile poised on a North Korean launch pad, we won’t know what’s under the nose cone of the missile, we may assess it could hit the U.S. and because of the terrible deficiencies in our ballistic missile defense program left by the Obama Administration, we might not be able to stop that missile. The President is going to have to make the decision whether he attacks it in North Korea, or hopes once it lifts off that its not going to land here. I don’t think we should wait for that, I think the risks are too high. And that’s why –not because anybody wants it, not because I think it’s a desirable thing in the abstract, but why we’ve got to be thinking about a preemptive strike against this North Korea capability. It’s not just that Kim Jong Un is erratic and not rational on our terms, the entire regime is a threat and this capability in the nuclear field is a threat on really a global basis, not just what North Korea itself could do, it’s whether it sells the nuclear capability to Iran, to terrorist groups, really anyone with hard currency. That would fit the pattern of their behavior over the last decades.

Fred Fleitz:

Ambassador, you know the news media and democrats in Congress are up in arms over the president’s tough warning to North Korea this week after intelligence was released that the North Koreans can make miniature warheads that can be used in ballistic missiles. What’s your take on this?

Amb. John Bolton:

Well you know that’s fairly typical of the Left. Don’t worry about the North Koreans, attack the president. I thought his rhetoric speaking of ‘fire and fury’ if North Korea continues, was on target; it was tough rhetoric for sure. We’re in a difficult position, we are in the middle of a crisis, Americans I think need to understand that. And I urge everyone to read the Wall Street Journal’s excellent editorial this morning where it talks about Trump’s rhetoric and points out why the main audience is for the North Korea regime and the Chinese, really need to understand how this President differs from Obama and how grave this situation is. And that’s something I think all Americans need to look at. Are you prepared to live with a North Korea with a deliverable nuclear weapons capability for now as far as the eye can see? I think that leaves future American generations hostage to the erratic policies of this bizarre regime on the Korean Peninsula. I think it’s unacceptable. And if you believe that, then you’ve got to start making some very hard decisions.

Fred Fleitz:

Quick question, because we are running out of time. When we look at the trajectory of the North Korean nuclear program, many experts say this is not a defense program. It is an offensive program. And I’m wondering if you think of the objectives of this program might be to one day absorb South Korea?

Amb. John Bolton:

Absolutely. The North has never given up the idea that it can control the whole peninsula. My notion on reunification with China is basically South Korea takes over the North, not the other way around. You eliminate the nuclear threat by eliminating North Korea. But don’t discount the possibility that in the future the North Korean could say to the U.S., ‘pull all of your troops out of not just North Korea, but in South Korea, pull them out of Japan. Pull them out of Guam. And if you don’t we will use our nuclear weapons.’ Now this a basically a blackmail capability that I wouldn’t leave even in the hands of our friends, let alone our adversaries. And that’s really just the beginning. This is a threat against the American people and really its metastasized to a point where it’s a grave danger.

Fred Fleitz:

Well, Ambassador Bolton, I’m afraid we ran out of time, thank you for providing your analysis today. You are listening to Secure Freedom Radio. This is Fred Fleitz substituting for Frank Gaffney. Next up, Clare Lopez. Stay tuned.

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