John Bolton

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Bolton: Trump Is To Credit For North Korean Willingness To Get Of Nuclear Site

April 29, 2018 - 2:52 pm
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/CBS News) -- North Korea said publicly in state-run media that it is willing to get rid of a nuclear testing site.

It is the latest in ongoing talks to bring peace to the Korean peninsula.

On CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the president is to thank.

“We’re here where we are today because of the pressure that the Trump administration has put on North Korea – economic pressure, political and military pressure,” he said.

Bolton also said the U.S. is not yet certain whether North Korea will really give up its weapons of mass destruction.

"Well, I don't think we know at this point," Bolton told host Margaret Brennan when asked whether he thought North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is serious about negotiating away his arsenal. "I think if he has made a strategic determination that North Korea would be better off without nuclear weapons then I think we've got something to talk about and I think the president would be eager to capitalize on the opportunity."

Ahead of a potential meeting between President Trump and Kim, Bolton indicated that inspections of nuclear sites will be necessary before U.S. sanctions will be relieved. He brought up Libya's decision to surrender its nuclear program, a process that was monitored by U.S. and allied officials.

"I think we're looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004," Bolton said. "We're also looking at what North Korea itself has committed to previously and most importantly, I think, going back over a quarter of a century to the 1992 joint North-South denuclearization agreement where North Korea committed to give up nuclear weapons and committed to give up uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing."

According to Bolton, negotiations between the U.S and North Korea would also involve Pyongyang's chemical weapons program, its abductions of foreign citizens and the status of three American citizens currently being held in the country.

"Now, we've got other issues to discuss as well -- their ballistic missile programs, their biological and chemical weapons programs, their keeping of American hostages, the abduction of innocent Japanese and South Korean citizens over the years. So there's a lot to talk about," Bolton said. 

Bolton also said that North Korea's willingness to negotiate is directly attributable to Trump's "pressure campaign" against the country. However, he also cautioned that North Korea had pledged to end its nuclear program before, meaning some skepticism is warranted about Kim's intentions.

"They've said that they're going to give up nuclear testing and ballistic missile testing," Bolton said. "They haven't conducted any recently. That's true. That could be a very positive sign, or it could be a sign that they've reached the level of development where they don't need testing now. We've seen this in other contexts as well. President Trump is determined to see this opportunity through. Hopeful that we can get a real breakthrough, but we're not naive in the in the administration and a lot's going to ride on this meeting with Kim Jong Un."

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) said on Fox News Sunday that he agrees in some ways for the reasons behind the recent changes, at least in rhetoric, from the North’s leader.

“I’ll give President Trump credit for having helped create this opening through the sanctions regime he’s helped put together and put in place, and I was encouraged by what I heard from Ambassador Bolton about determination to not lighten up on North Korea until there are verifiable and irreversible changes to their nuclear weapons program,” Coons said.

Following the summit between the North and South, Pope Francis hailed what he called a courageous commitment from the two leaders.

Turning to the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump may soon decide to leave, Bolton reiterated that withdrawing from the deal is under consideration. At the same time, he would not rule out the possibility that the deal could be fixed, saying that the decision was up to the president.

"I think it's a question of the president being open to make the final decision," Bolton said. "It's the job of his advisers to give advice. He's the decision maker."

Bolton added that while he stuck by comments he made that were deeply critical of the nuclear deal, he is now a presidential adviser, meaning that it's his job to present Mr. Trump with options on how to proceed. 

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News contributed to this report.)