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Planned U.S.-North Korea Peace Talks in Jeopardy as Trump Adviser Bolton Pushes for Regime Change

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North Korea is threatening to cancel the June 12 U.S.-North Korea summit, after President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said on Sunday the U.S. should use the so-called Libyan model for denuclearization. In 2003, Libya negotiated sanctions relief from the United States in exchange for renouncing its nuclear program and welcoming international inspectors to verify the dismantlement. Eight years later, the U.S. and other nations attacked Libya, toppling and killing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. We are joined by Christine Hong, an associate professor at University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: North Korea is threatening to cancel the June 12th U.S.-North Korean summit, after President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said the U.S. should use the Libyan model for denuclearization. In 2003, Libya negotiated sanctions relief from the United States in exchange for renouncing its nuclear program and welcoming international inspectors to verify the dismantlement. Eight years later, the U.S. and other nations attacked Libya, toppling and killing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

We’re joined right now by Christine Hong. She’s an associate professor here at the University of California, Santa Cruz, executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute, has spent time in North Korea, including a visit to the country as part of a North American peace delegation.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Hong. Talk about what you think is happening with the summit and what exactly Trump’s national security adviser has said, many said “threatened.”

CHRISTINE HONG: Right. So, what North Korea right now is stating is that it objects to the fact that the United States and South Korea are engaged in massive war exercises. And this is on the eve of a historically unprecedented summit between the United States and North Korea. So, these war exercises, Max Thunder, basically, they operationalize 100 warplanes. This includes F-22 nuclear-capable aircraft, as well as, potentially, B-52 bombers. And, you know, as many people probably now know, these types of war exercises, they have simulated, historically, in the past, the dropping of nuclear munitions on the Korean Peninsula, in a simulated, quote-unquote, “preemptive” strike against North Korea.

And so, recently, the leaders of North and South Korea met. They hammered out a historic Panmunjom Declaration for the peace, prosperity and reunification of the Korean Peninsula. And what they called upon—or, they called for, was actually the denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula. This shouldn’t be narrowly understood as singularly North Korea’s responsibility. This implies—it implies a commensurate obligation on the part of the United States. When the United States puts into play, on the eve of the summit, nuclear-capable aircraft that have—that simulate a nuclear first strike against North Korea, North Korea rightly sees this as a provocative action that’s meant to sabotage the possibility of any sort of peace negotiations.

As for the Libya model that you mentioned, you know, the vice minister of foreign affairs in North Korea, Kim Kye-gwan, just came out with a statement recently and stated that North Korea is under no illusions about the nature of John Bolton’s politics and that they find him—and the term was—”repugnant.” And, you know, the—

AMY GOODMAN: And now, John Bolton, under George W. Bush—

CHRISTINE HONG: Exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: And again, he wasn’t approved by the Senate as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time—

CHRISTINE HONG: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —because Bush knew he couldn’t be, so he made a recess appointment of him. He was instrumental in making sure the U.S. did not participate in—or, in basically vetoing a nuclear deal with North Korea.

CHRISTINE HONG: Well, I mean, as recently as February, John Bolton wrote for The Wall Street Journal, stating that the United States should engage in a preemptive nuclear strike against North Korea. So this is the person right now who is, you know, basically fanning the war flames. And North Korea has often referenced Libya and Iraq as models of regime change. And so, when John Bolton is speaking about the Libya model of denuclearization, North Korea understands precisely what that means. That means, you know, dismantle your nuclear program—and, of course, North Korea is far more advanced than Libya; North Korea is a de facto nuclear state—and so, give up your nuclear program and make yourself completely defenseless and prepare for a war intervention on the part of the United States that will fundamentally destabilize your society.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think this will happen? Do you think the summit will take place?

CHRISTINE HONG: I hope it will.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there, but we’re going to do Part 2, and we’re going to post it online in web exclusives at democracynow.org. Christine Hong, associate professor here at University of California, Santa Cruz, executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute.

That does it for our show. I’m speaking here tonight, along with Daniel Ellsberg, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, at the Colleges Nine and Ten Multipurpose Room at 7:30. The event will be live-streamed. You can go to democracynow.org for more information. Everyone is welcome.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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