WASHINGTON — Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will “never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily” under current circumstances, while expressing concerns over the souring of ties between Japan and South Korea.
“It seems to me clear that the DPRK has not made a strategic decision to give up its nuclear weapons. In fact, I think the contrary is true,” Bolton said at a Washington think tank, following his abrupt resignation in early September over what U.S. President Donald Trump called disagreements on multiple issues including North Korea.
DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“I think the strategic decision that Kim Jong Un is operating through is that he will do whatever he can to keep a deliverable nuclear weapons capability and to develop and enhance it further,” said Bolton, who is known as a hardliner on North Korea and Iran.
His remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies came amid expectations that the United States and North Korea may resume working-level talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
The North Korean leader may try to get relief from international sanctions and may make some concessions, Bolton said, but added, “Under current circumstances he will never give up the nuclear weapons voluntarily.”
In a summit in February in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Kim and Trump fell short of bridging the gap between Washington’s denuclearization demands and Pyongyang’s calls for sanctions relief.
Bolton warned that time would only benefit countries like North Korea in their pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“Time works against those who oppose nuclear proliferation. And a relaxed attitude to time is a benefit to the likes of North Korea and Iran,” he said.
Bolton, meanwhile, called on the United States to pay “urgent attention” to the deteriorating relationship between Japan and South Korea, saying that Seoul’s decision in August to withdraw from a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo has a “palpable impact on American ability to coordinate among our various allies.”
“I think if the United States does not operate here, we face a very serious deterioration of alliance capabilities at precisely the wrong time,” he said.
South Korea’s decision to terminate the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, was the latest sign of chilling ties between the two countries as they continue to spar over wartime compensation issues and trade control measures.
The pact was intended to help the two U.S. allies counter missile threats from North Korea by sharing sensitive intelligence information directly and in a timely way, rather than requiring the United States to pass such information between the two parties.