[Editorial] Bolton’s memoir proves that S. Korea must take control of inter-Korean relations

Posted on : 2020-06-23 16:18 KST Modified on : 2020-06-23 16:18 KST
The US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on Feb. 28, 2019. (Yonhap News)
The US-North Korea summit in Hanoi on Feb. 28, 2019. (Yonhap News)

The new memoir by former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton is an irresponsible expose on the diplomatic negotiations between South Korean President Moon Jae-in, US President Donald Trump, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Bolton’s book not only ignores the diplomatic norms of the international community, but also serves as a shameful and one-sided attempt to justify his repeated obstruction of the Korean Peninsula Peace Process.

In his memoir, Bolton provides a detailed description of what happened behind the scenes of the first Kim-Trump summit in Singapore in 2018, their second summit in Hanoi in 2019, and their trilateral meeting with Moon at Panmunjom in 2019, as well as what those leaders discussed. It’s astonishing that a high-ranking official who was responsible for the US’ foreign policy and security policy and who personally attended the meetings would disclose the details of summit diplomacy, in defiance of occupational ethics, as soon as he left his position. If inter-governmental trust is broken in such a fashion, what country would be willing to hold a summit with the US?

Bolton’s revelations are especially serious because they aggravate the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula and make it harder to hold talks in the future to tackle the North Korean nuclear issue. Bolton ought to be held fully accountable. Bolton’s twisted attitudes — his full-throated advocacy for American hegemony and his dire antipathy for dialogue with North Korea — have long been apparent, and they crop up at numerous points in his memoir. He mocked Moon’s push for a trilateral meeting with Kim and Trump as being aimed at setting up a “photo op” and offensively described Moon’s plan for North Korea’s denuclearization as being “schizophrenic.”

Bolton willfully disparages South Korea’s efforts to advance the Korean Peninsula Peace Process amid challenging circumstances. The Blue House issued a sharp rebuttal on June 22, accusing Bolton of “distorting the deliberations between the leaders of South Korea and the US according to his own bias and prejudice.” Those distortions, the Blue House said, were “unsound and inappropriate behavior.”

Bolton was one of the leading neocons who helped add North Korea to the “axis of evil” during the presidency of George W. Bush, thus blocking peace on the Korean Peninsula. He later tried to run the North Korea-US negotiations aground by advocating the Libya model, under which North Korea wouldn’t get any sanctions relief until its denuclearization was complete.

Bolton’s memoir confirms once more that hardline conservatives in the US believe that raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula through conflict with the North serves American interests. As inter-Korean relations once again face a crisis, leading up to the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, Bolton’s memoir ironically shows that achieving firm progress in inter-Korean relations is the only way to free us from American manipulation and to move forward with the Korean Peninsula Peace Process.

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