White House downplays Bolton comments after North Korea outcry

The White House on Wednesday downplayed comments by national security adviser John Bolton, who recently invoked Libya...

Posted: May. 16, 2018 1:59 PM
Updated: May. 16, 2018 1:59 PM

The White House on Wednesday downplayed comments by national security adviser John Bolton, who recently invoked Libya's decision to denuclearize during the Bush administration as a model for US policy on North Korea, potentially placing a planned US-North Korea summit in jeopardy.

Hours earlier, a North Korean official said Bolton's remarks were indicative of an "awfully sinister move" to imperil the Kim regime. North Korea stunned Washington on Tuesday by threatening to abandon talks between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un if Washington insists on pushing it "into a corner" on nuclear disarmament.

Referring to the Libya comparison, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that she hadn't "seen that as part of any discussions so I'm not aware that that's a model that we're using.

"I haven't seen that that's a specific thing. I know that that comment was made. There's not a cookie cutter model on how this would work."

She continued, "This is the President Trump model. He's going to run this the way he sees fit. We're 100% confident, as we've said many times before, as I'm sure you're all aware, he's the best negotiator and we're very confident on that front."

In April, Bolton suggested that the White House was looking at Libya as an example of how it will handle negotiations with North Korea to denuclearize.

"We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004," Bolton said on Fox News. "There are obviously differences. The Libyan program was much smaller. But that was basically the agreement that we made."

The US agreed to ease sanctions on Libya in 2003 in exchange for a promise by Moammar Gadhafi to abandon his country's nuclear program. Eight years later, however, Gadhafi was overthrown and killed by rebels backed by Washington.

In a statement published late Tuesday by the state-run Korea Central News Agency, Kim Kye Gwan, North Korea's first vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called Bolton's comments indicative of "an awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers."

"It is absolutely absurd to dare compare (North Korea), a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development," Kim said. "(The) world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate."

Singling out the national security adviser for personal criticism, Kim said that North Korea had "shed light on the quality of (John) Bolton already in the past, and we do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him."

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