Blue House issues strong rebuttal to Bolton’s claims about Korean Peninsula affairs

Posted on : 2020-06-23 16:12 KST Modified on : 2020-06-23 16:25 KST
Former US national security advisor says Trump didn’t want Moon at Panmunjom summit
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, US President Donald Trump, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at their surprise summit in Panmunjom on June 30. (Kim Jung-hyo, staff photographer)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, US President Donald Trump, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at their surprise summit in Panmunjom on June 30. (Kim Jung-hyo, staff photographer)

The Blue House issued a swift and stern rebuttal on June 22 to former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton’s characterization of Korean Peninsula affairs in his new memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” criticizing Bolton’s remarks as “unsound and inappropriate behavior.”

As Bolton’s biased and one-sided description is being covered and amplified by South Korea’s conservative press, the Blue House appears determined to keep its efforts to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula from being sabotaged.

Bolton distorts facts according to his own bias, Blue House says

The Blue House was particularly irritated by the section of Bolton’s memoir that deals with the surprise summit between the leaders of South Korea, North Korea, and the US that was held at Panmunjom on June 30, 2019, the section that received the bulk of media coverage on Monday. The Chosun Ilbo, for example, inferred from a section of the book claiming that neither US President Donald Trump nor North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wanted Moon present at the summit, and that Moon’s attendance was a major diplomatic faux pas.

But a Blue House official responded by pointing out that “Bolton wasn’t at the summit — he was in Mongolia. He wasn’t included because President Trump didn’t like him and because the North was uncomfortable with him as well. He appears to have greatly distorted the facts to sell more books.”

“Bolton said that [Trump] rejected the idea [of Moon attending] the meeting three times, but that happened during the [normal] deliberations,” another official said. Others pointed out that, if Moon did in fact convince Trump to let him attend, he should be praised for responding effectively to the situation, given the nature of a summit, in which the national interest can be affected by leaders’ spontaneous decisions.

The Blue House’s muscular response isn’t solely motivated by Bolton’s distortion of the facts. The most notable part of the Blue House’s statement released on Monday by Senior Secretary for Public Communication Yoon Do-han was the passage that accused Bolton of distorting the deliberations between the leaders of South Korea and the US “according to his own bias and prejudice.” Indeed, Bolton’s memoir is full of cynical descriptions of Trump and Moon’s efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and his own schemes to hamper their efforts. Bolton even used the expression “catastrophe” to describe the tentative North Korea-US agreement that fell apart shortly before Trump and Kim’s summit in Hanoi, on Feb. 28, 2019, ended without a deal.

Bolton’s memoir is expected to substantially reinforce the negative opinions of the American mainstream toward the North Korea-US nuclear talks, which have been driven by Trump’s unique style of leadership. That will make it even harder for Trump — who has already basically pulled away from the North Korea issue, with the presidential election coming up in November — to deviate from the status quo on North Korean policy. If South Korea’s conservatives pile on, it will further constrain the North Korean policy of the Moon administration, which has suffered a serious blow during the recent rapid deterioration of inter-Korean relations. In short, the “door to dialogue,” which has miraculously stayed open since 2018, could slam shut and stay that way for some time.

Blue House feels need to counter book’s negative effect on S. Korea-US relations

A long lull in inter-Korean relations and the North Korea-US nuclear talks, which the Moon administration had regarded as its greatest achievement, would likely make it harder for Moon to pursue his policy initiatives during his final two years in office. The rapid worsening of inter-Korean relations, including North Korea’s demolition of the Inter-Korean Joint Liaison Office in Kaesong, has already caused Moon’s approval rating to nose downward.

“If some newspapers try to politicize Bolton’s claims on the presumption that they’re true, it’s likely to have a negative effect on South Korea-US diplomatic issues, including the Korean Peninsula Peace Process,” said one worried official at the Blue House.

By Gil Yun-hyung and Seong Yeon-cheol, staff reporters

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