When I told John Bolton today I wanted to offer him a chance to say, “I told you so,” after talks with North Korea over their nuclear regime fell apart, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations let out a loud laugh, which is unusual for the dry-witted, tough-talking conservative.
Mr. Bolton, who left the administration after Mr. Bush’s first term, has been loudly haranguing the White House for its softer approach to Pyongyang over the past two years.
When told that White House press secretary Dana Perino said today that the administration will have to “rethink” its strategy on North Korea, Mr. Bolton offered a sharp reply.
“They should have rethought it about five years ago, because these talks were doomed from the outset, and some of us said so,” he said. “This is one I’d have to say I’m not very happy I was right on it. But I’d also have to say it wasn’t all that hard to figure out.”
The refusal by Pyongyang to put in writing the full extent of its nuclear activities, Mr. Bolton said, came as “no surprise.”
“I have never believed the North Koreans were going to give up their nuclear program voluntarily. And what they have done is what they have done throughout the nearly 15-year history of negotiations with them on the nuclear issue,” he said.
“And that is, they bargain again and again over the same issue. They extract as many concessions as they can from the United States, and then they fail to deliver on their commitments,” Mr. Bolton said. “At some point, you have to ask when American administrations are going to figure it out.”
When I asked him what strategy he would suggest to the Obama administration about going forward, he said that China is key.
“China alone has the power to pressure North Korea by cutting off energy supplies, and if China is really serious that they don’t want North Korea with nuclear weapons, we have to make this a more important issue in the U.S-China bilateral relationship,” Mr. Bolton said.