While the landmark summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared cordial, the presence of one member of the US delegation, national security adviser John Bolton, may have raised the temperature in the room.
Bolton has stoked tensions between the US and North Korea previously, and his public remarks threatened to ruin the summit altogether last month.
Bolton was criticized in the US and North Korea after suggesting that if the Trump administration were to make concessions to the North as part of its diplomatic negotiations, it would be “looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004” as part of its negotiations about North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.
In 2003, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi allowed independent inspectors to verify that its nuclear and chemical programs were shut down. Eight years later, rebel forces killed him in a violent display during uprisings supported by the US.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attempted to clarify Bolton’s comments in May, but Pyongyang was back on the offensive: North Korea’s state-run media outlet referred to Pence as “ignorant and stupid” for making “unbridled and impudent remarks.”
Bolton the former US ambassador to the UN, had previous run-ins with North Korea. As one of President George W. Bush’s advisers, Bolton was, and still is, perceived as a North Korea hawk by many foreign-policy experts.
Given his hawkish views, Bolton was described as a “human scum and a bloodsucker” by North Korea’s propaganda outlets in 2003.
Bolton in turn called the description “the highest accolade I received during all my service in the Bush years.”