Bolton’s tell-all account of the 17 months he served as Trump’s national security adviser has made waves not only in Washington but also among diplomatic partners of the United States, as excerpts from the book have been released in media reports over the past few days.
Chung Eui-yong, national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, accused Bolton of “being inaccurate” in his memoir and “distorting the reality.”
“Unilaterally revealing discussions made based on mutual trust among states violates the fundamental principles of diplomacy and could undermine future negotiations,” Chung said in a statement via a presidential spokesman.
Chung did not specify which parts of Bolton’s memoir he claimed were inaccurate or distorted. He said he expects Washington to take appropriate action against the “dangerous precedent” set by Bolton’s exposé, which he said could undermine the mutual interests of the United States and its ally South Korea.
In 2018, Chung delivered to Trump a meeting invitation from North Korean leader Kim, saying he was “committed to denuclearization.” He went on to play a significant role in the ensuing encounters between Trump and Kim to negotiate the nuclear disarmament of North Korea.
“This whole diplomatic fandango was South Korea’s creation, related more to its ‘unification’ agenda than serious strategy on Kim’s part or ours,” Bolton wrote in his book, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post before its release Tuesday.
Bolton believed that the Moon administration’s agenda was more to improve relations with its northern neighbor than to get a substantial denuclearization commitment from Pyongyang. He accused Moon of overselling to Trump and Kim the benefits of engagement, leading to a discrepancy in expectations.
Ahead of Trump’s unprecedented first summit with the North Korean leader, in 2018, Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had growing concerns that Trump would compromise U.S. foreign policy interests out of desperation for a deal.
Neither Bolton nor Pompeo trusted Trump, especially during his conversations with South Korea’s president, Bolton wrote. The two men listened in on the calls and shared their disdain, with Bolton telling Pompeo that it was a “near-death experience” for him, and Pompeo, who was traveling in the Middle East, responding that he was “having a cardiac arrest in Saudi Arabia.”
After his first meeting with the North Korean leader in 2018, Trump declared that there is “no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” The thawing of tensions was abruptly reversed when the second summit, held last year, collapsed because of disagreements over lifting sanctions in exchange for disarmament steps by North Korea.
A longtime hawk on North Korea, Bolton said Trump put U.S. interests in danger because he was so “swept up in the rapture” of getting a historic photo op with the North Korean leader.
The Trump administration’s bid to block the release of Bolton’s book was denied by a federal judge Saturday.
Hudson reported from Washington.