Bolton’s Big Error on China and North Korea

There is almost no one alive with less credibility to advise the U.S. on what to do about North Korea’s nuclear weapons than this man.

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For some reason, The Washington Post lets John Bolton hold forth about China and North Korea:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Beijing in early February to meet with his new Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang. Bilateral relations between their two countries are on shaky ground, so the agenda will be crowded.

This may seem an inopportune moment to propose North Korea as a central agenda item. But recent threatening actions from Pyongyang, including ballistic-missile testing and preparing for a seventh nuclear test, offer Blinken a good way to gauge Beijing’s sincerity about seeking Indo-Pacific peace and stability.

No other US officials have done more to encourage North Korea’s nuclear weapons program than John Bolton. He has been called the “father” of their weapons program for good reason. Bolton is famous for opposing every nonproliferation and arms control agreement that has ever been negotiated or proposed, and he is responsible for killing more than a few of them, including the Agreed Framework with North Korea. His insistence on maximalist demands for North Korean disarmament at the Hanoi summit ensured the failure of the meeting and the collapse of direct talks. There is almost no one alive with less credibility to advise the US on what to do about North Korea’s nuclear weapons than this man, but he somehow still gets to spout his usual hardline nonsense using one of the biggest platforms in the country.

Bolton’s op-ed is useful only in the sense that it restates and exposes some of the most flawed assumptions that have undergirded US policy towards North Korea. The US has erred repeatedly by exaggerating Chinese influence over North Korea and assuming that Beijing could compel North Korea into making major concessions. This is an error that Bolton himself has made many times, including during his stint as Trump’s National Security Advisor. Since leaving government, he has been banging this drum incessantly.

Read the rest of the article at SubStack

Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

9 thoughts on “Bolton’s Big Error on China and North Korea”

  1. Trump should never have picked Bolton to be National Insecurity Advisor and should have fired him after the talks with Kim Jong Un. Bolton was George Warmonger Bush’s Ambassador to the UN.

    1. All these people are imperialists, but Bolton is a whole other level of war monger. Even Trump said that he wants to attack everyone.

  2. John Bolton is one of the most evil people on the planet. When he was the U.S. U.N. representative, my wife and I happened to be in New York. We made cardboard signs that said something to the effect that we apologize to the rest of the world for John Bolton and that he didn’t represent us. (We were on vacation and didn’t want to get arrested, so we only did this for a few minutes.)

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