To say that the division of Korea has caused disagreements and outright hatred on both sides is an understatement. But ever since the inauguration of Korean detente in 2018, Pyongyang and Seoul have been engaging in increased cooperation. For months on end, Moon Jae-in’s Blue House has been publicly agreeing with Pyongyang about the need for the US to join with China and Russia in calling for a relaxation of sanctions on the DPRK during rather than after the de-nuclearisation process.
Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton was a noted critic of this option and to this end, Bolton reportedly collapsed this year’s DPRK-USA summit in Hanoi over the matter, even though Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un continued to make personal progress in their discussions.
Speaking a day after Bolton’s self-evidently forced resignation, Trump elaborated on the matter. Earlier this year, Bolton had threatened to use the “Libyan model” in the DPRK. This was of course the model that stripped Libya of its major weapons systems, failed to deliver on promises of economic connectivity and ultimately resulted in a war against Libya.
Trump addressed Bolton’s views on this by saying the following:
“We were set back very badly when John Bolton talked about the Libyan model … what a disaster
He’s using that to make a deal with North Korea? And I don’t blame Kim Jong-Un for what he said after that, and he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton. And that’s not a question of being tough. That’s a question of being not smart to say something like that”.
Trump’s statement makes it clear beyond any doubt that Bolton’s period in his White House has been even more contentious than many had previously suspected. The statement also makes it clear that Trump’s level of sincerity in respect of securing a win-win peace deal in Korea has been authentic whilst his ability to achieve his goals had been retarded by Bolton’s negative influence.
But it was not only in Korea where Trump expressed his frustration at Bolton. Earlier this year I remarked that after Trump did his best to rebuff Bolton’s attempts to shape US policy in both Korea and the Middle East, he was given free reign to foment regime change in Venezuela. Whilst Trump has spoken with passion about Korean peace, the trade war against China and issues in the Middle East ranging from the Iranian JCPOA to Israel-Arab relations, he never seemed to project any great passion about events in Venezuela.
The US campaign for regime change in Venezuela was largely Bolton’s baby and given the fact that Nicolas Maduro has largely seen off any challenge from Bolton’s men in Caracas, it is fair to say that it was a stillbirth. Commenting on Bolton’s machinations in Venezuela, Trump stated:
“I thought he was way out of line and I think I’ve proven to be right”.
Thus, it would appear that Venezuela may well have been a test that was set up for Bolton by Trump. Forgetting Donald Trump’s general dispassion about Latin America vis-a-vis Asia and the Middle East, Trump likes a winner and he likes to project American power without the expense of going into the full scale wars that characterised the presidencies of his immediate predecessors. As such, if Bolton succeeded in turning Venezuela into a kind of US client state, Bolton may well have been rewarded.
Inversely, if Bolton failed, this could be an excuse that Trump could deploy to oust Bolton – something that ultimately Trump was all too happy to do because Bolton turned out to be a “loser” in respect of his Venezuela policy.
From the moment that the war weary Trump hired John Bolton, it seemed inevitable that the two would fallout. The fact that it has occurred just in time to re-start Korean peace talks was not only fortuitous but represents a substantial boost to global peace.