Watch Report No.24 August 13, 2020
§Regardless of Bolton’s Criticism against Trump, the Singapore Agreement Serves as a Basic Document for Denuclearization and Peace on the Korean Peninsula
A memoir entitled, “The Room Where It Happened,” by John Bolton, former National Security Advisor to the US President Donald Trump, casts doubt on Trump’s qualifications as President and has been drawing attention around the world. Disclosing inside stories of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, Bolton’s memoir covers a number of episodes that show President Trump prioritized his “reelection” and “publicity” over “national interests,” and this was the case with US foreign policy toward the DPRK as well.
Regarding the first US-DPRK summit in history held in Singapore in June 2018, Bolton reveals that in a staff meeting, Trump said, “This is an exercise in publicity,” writing “which is how he saw the entire summit” and adds that, “he was prepared to sign a substance-free communique, have his press conference to declare victory, and then get out of town” . Bolton also writes about an episode in which Chairman Kim Jong-Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) called for scaling back US-ROK joint military exercises. Trump agreed with him saying, “the exercises were provocative and a waste of time and money” as he has been arguing and made Kim Jong-Un laugh by saying that, “Kim had saved the United States a lot of money” . Regarding the Hanoi Summit held in February 2019, Bolton describes in detail Trump fluctuating between “a deal” and “walking away from the table” to distract public attention from impact of US Congressional testimony about Trump’s Russia scandal by his former attorney Michel Cohen. Bolton notes that this is an example of Trump’s “personal problems bleed[ing] into national security” . On the other hand, regarding the Singapore Summit, Bolton argues that (the summit was) South Korea’s creation; relating more to its “reunification” agenda than a serious strategy on Kim’s part or ours” .
As mentioned above, Bolton’s memoir leaves its readers with the impression that the US-ROK summit was a historic fiasco, from the point of view of Trump’s qualifications as President and his attitude toward the Summit as well as its overall framework. It is true that part of his description of Trump’s qualifications resonate with many readers; however, this opinion should not result in underestimating the significance of the US-DPRK agreement in Singapore.
To avoid this misjudgment, we need to know how Bolton has viewed US-DPRK negotiations since 2018. As he writes in his memoir many times, Bolton is a hardliner who argues that the only appropriate course is to maintain sanctions and military pressure until the DPRK gives in, leading to the collapse of its regime. For instance, during the period leading up to Singapore being chosen as the site for the US-ROK summit, regarding the Summit, Bolton stated that, “My hope may be the whole thing would collapse” . He writes that after that he struggled to prevent Trump from making a major concession or an end-of-war declaration, with the support of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Japanese government. As well, regarding the US-DPRK summit held in Hanoi, Bolton writes that he was able to block a draft joint statement prepared by Stephen Biegun, US State Department Special Representative for North Korean Policy (at the time), who had virtually accepted a policy of step-by-step denuclearization by the DPRK. As a result of Bolton’s briefings before the summit in which he repeatedly drilled into Trump the option of “walking away from the table”, Bolton writes that, “I think this second briefing also went extremely well, accomplishing all we could expect to get Trump into the right frame of mind so as not to give away the store in Hanoi.” 
Japanese society tends to perceive Bolton’s tough stance positively which demands that only the DPRK denuclearize in the US-DPRK summit as well as behaviors of Bolton who blocked an end-of-war declaration and an agreement on phased denuclearization. However, should we really feel relieved that thanks to Bolton, President Trump who seeks reelection didn’t easily reach an agreement with the DPRK?
Bolton is famous for his militaristic foreign policy based on the coercive attitude toward less powerful countries. As a result of policies led by Bolton, people in many countries around the world have suffered. Recently, the US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and resumed sanctions on Iran, and as a result, the Iranian people have suffered from shortages of medicine, skyrocketing prices and other problems. In an op-ed entitled, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” published in the New York Times , Bolton criticized the Obama administration’s policy toward Iran and argued that, “only military action … can accomplish what is required,” and in 2019, as National Security Advisor, he actually proposed that Trump take military action against Iran. Additionally, Bolton has been a leading advocate of policies which damage some countries and threaten world peace, including a coup plot against Venezuela’s regime and US abrogation of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia.
Regarding US foreign policy toward the DPRK, Bolton’s tough stance has resulted in a situation harmful to the peace and security of East Asia. Despite the fact that the Agreed Framework between the US and the DPRK had completely frozen DPRK plutonium production, Bolton disliked the Agreed Framework made during the Clinton administration and led to its abrogation under the Bush administration, leveraging alleged DPRK uranium enrichment program with poor evidence. As a result, the DPRK resumed its nuclear programs, which have resulted in its current possession of nuclear weapons.
Additionally, as mentioned above, Bolton worked to stop Biegun and others’ preparation for the Hanoi Summit that would facilitate Trump’s agreement on a phased approach for the denuclearization with the DPRK in order to implement the Singapore agreement. This obstruction has led to the current deadlock of US–DPRK negotiations.
DPRK First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-Hui who held a press conference for foreign media a few weeks after the Hanoi Summit, stated that, despite the fact that “(w)hen we made a practical proposal in the talks (in Hanoi), President Trump adopted the flexible position that an agreement would be possible if a clause was added stating that the sanctions could be re-imposed if North Korea resumed nuclear activities after the sanctions were lifted,” “because of their continuing hostility and mistrust, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton created obstacles to the two leaders’ efforts to have constructive negotiation and, ultimately the summit didn’t produce meaningful results.” Clearly expressing her sense of distrust for the US, Choe Son-Hui reached the conclusion that, as to the future of negotiations, the DPRK would not “have the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation.”  Regarding “a practical proposal” which Choe Son-Hui mentioned, the DPRK Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Yong-Ho explained in an emergency press conference right after the Hanoi Summit, saying that, “if the US lifts some of the UN sanctions, or in other words those aspects of the sanctions that impede the civilian economy and the people’s livelihood, we will completely and permanently dismantle the production facilities of all nuclear materials, including plutonium and uranium, in the Yongbyon complex, through joint tasks done by technicians from both our countries, in the presence of American experts,” and “(w)e also expressed our willingness to make a written pledge to permanently halt nuclear tests and long-range missile test launches.”  The New York Times reported that in the Hanoi Summit Bolton and Pompeo advised President Trump to demand the DPRK dismantle all the nuclear facilities, knowing that the DPRK side would not agree to such condition , and Bolton’s memoir confirms the testimony of the North Korean side mentioned above and the coverage in the New York Times.
In summary, Bolton and other hardliners have been working to scrap the Singapore agreement just like they did with INF and the Iran nuclear deal.
The Singapore agreement cannot necessarily be interpreted as an example of Trump’s mix of public and personal motivations. Whether Trump’s first priority is reelection or not, what matters most for us is what the leaders of the US and the DPRK agreed in Singapore and whether the resulting agreement will contribute to peace and security of people in the US, the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia in the future.
Further, no matter how hard Bolton criticizes the agreement, the Singapore agreement has landmark significance. The historic significance of the Singapore Summit itself is that the leaders of the two countries, which had been in a state of war over some 70 years, held a summit for reconciliation for the first time. In particular, the young leader of a secretive country who had just made his diplomatic debut, appeared on TV and showed his facial expressions as an ordinary human being while the whole world paid attention. Such event itself signaled the possibility of future changes.
The joint statement agreed upon at the summit contains essential points, which serve as a basis for our expectations of promising future developments. The two countries made two basic agreements for the future: “to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire…for peace and prosperity,” and “to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” As a starting point, “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong-Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.”  The content of the US-DPRK joint statement at the Singapore Summit can serve as a basis for negotiations and will be something which every US administration is supposed to make efforts to realize, as long as the administration seeks to improve the US-DPRK relations. In the US, the next administration as a result of the presidential election in November 2020 should not repeat the folly of the Bush administration’s abrogation of the agreement reached by the previous Clinton administration.
Since the Hanoi summit failed to reach agreement, the DPRK waited for the US to abandon its hostile policy toward the DPRK, setting the end of 2019 as a deadline.
Additionally, based on the assumption that the economic sanctions would be kept in place, the DPRK made it clear that it would make advances on the difficult course of economic self-reliance. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, DPRK peoples’ lives must be getting harder. However, while the DPRK has refused to continue negotiations with the US given the current US approach, it hasn’t closed the door for denuclearization negotiations. On July 10, while saying it is unlikely that the DPRK-US summit talks would happen this year, the first vice director of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Yo-Jong stated the following: “We would like to make it clear that it does not necessarily mean the denuclearization is not possible. But what we mean is that it is not possible at this point of time. I remind the US that the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula can be realized only when there are major changes on the other side, i.e. the irreversible simultaneous major steps to be taken in parallel with our actions .” (Hajime MAEKAWA & Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI)
 John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened (Simon & Schuster, 2020) p.106.
 See note , p.110
 See note , p. 324
 See note , p.78
 See note , p.79
 See note , p.322
 John Bolton, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran”, The New York Times, March 26, 2015
 “Remarks by DPRK First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son-Hui,” NEWSIS, March 15, 2019 (in Korean)
 “Full text of a press conference by DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho,” Hangyoreh, March 1, 2019 (in Korean)
 David E. Sanger and Edward Wong, “How the Trump-Kim Summit Failed: Big Threats, Big Egos, Bad Bets,” The New York Times, March 2, 2019
 “Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the DPRK at the Singapore Summit,” June 12, 2018
 KCNA, July 10, 2020
http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm Search for the article by date.