|Former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton waves while leaving the headquarters of South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on July 24. Yonhap|
Departure of hawkish aide could be good sign for resuming dialogue
By Lee Min-hyung
Following the exit of hawkish National Security Adviser John Bolton from President Donald Trump's cabinet after he was unceremoniously fired, Washington is now expected to soften its hardline approach toward North Korea when both sides resume their talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, experts said Wednesday.
The ouster of Bolton is seen as a message from Trump that he badly wants to revive the stalled talks since the failure of the Hanoi summit earlier this year. The U.S. president is widely seen as trying to generate a good foreign affairs policy outcome in his bid for re-election next year. Bolton's departure came as Pyongyang showed its willingness to resume working-level nuclear talks with the U.S. later this month.
"North Korea will apparently welcome Trump's ouster of Bolton, as the hawkish figure has long been seen as a thorn in its side from the North's viewpoint," said Park Won-gon, a professor of international relations at Handong Global University. "This is a positive sign in terms of resuming the nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang."
But the expert pointed out that Bolton's absence could have a negative impact on Washington's ultimate long-term goal of achieving complete denuclearization of the North.
"Bolton was well aware of what denuclearization is and has always stuck to principles without being swayed by political interests," Park said. Bolton was the most appropriate figure who could deliver critical and realistic messages to Trump, so there are now concerns on whether the U.S. president will be able to fill the position with someone who is as well-versed in denuclearization, the professor said.
All eyes are on who will replace Bolton, as his successor will play a crucial role in shaping Trump's North Korea policy drive. Trump said he would be naming a new adviser sometime next week.
Bolton, who has served as the U.S. national security adviser since April 2018, has clashed with Trump on a series of national security issues, which the U.S. leader said was the reason for firing the hardline aide.
"I informed John Bolton last night that his service was no longer needed at the White House," Trump tweeted Tuesday. "I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the administration."
Bolton is famous for his strong antagonistic views on North Korea. His stance, however, did not mesh with that of the Trump administration, which wants to continue urging the North to return to negotiations.
Trump and Bolton have had critical discrepancies regarding the North. Bolton recently slammed Pyongyang for launching short-range missiles, saying the provocations were banned under United Nations resolutions.
But Trump did not react strongly to the North's recent missile tests, "defending" the country by saying they were nothing more than "small weapons."
The nuclear talks between the two have been suspended since the failure of the Hanoi summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last February. At that time, it was known that Bolton urged Trump to sign a "big deal" with his North Korean counterpart. But with Kim expressing determination to stick to a "phased approach" for the North's denuclearization, the much-anticipated second meeting between the two leaders ended up a fiasco.
No progress has been made since in talks between the two countries, with the North declining to show up for dialogue. Pyongyang has repeatedly urged Washington to change its "calculating method" over the nuclear talks if it hopes to resume talks.