Memo to Donald Trump: It’s Time to End-Run Your Advisers on North Korea

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This article is a reprint of Joel Wit and Richard Sokolsky’s op-ed originally published in The National Interest on May 19, 2019. It is reprinted by 38 North with kind permission.

Dear President Donald Trump,

The United States and North Korea are once again locked in a diplomatic standoff over denuclearization and the normalization of US-North Korean relations, which has unfortunately brought to a screeching halt the very promising start North and South Korea have made on building peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. You are in this pickle because in Hanoi you decided to take the misguided, deal-killing advice to go big with Kim Jong Un, instead of following your own instincts to strike a smaller, but still important, deal that could have been reached with some hard bargaining.

If you want to make progress on North Korea, then keep your own counsel and stop heeding the awful advice of others, particularly National Security Advisor John Bolton who has a long history of magical thinking that America can impose its will on other countries. Bolton took a similar approach to Pyongyang during the Bush administration and blew up a denuclearization deal reached by President Clinton. That agreement wasn’t perfect but, in retrospect, would have avoided the predicament we are in today, facing a nuclear-armed North Korea able to attack American cities. There is a reason why the North Koreans call Bolton “the father of their nuclear weapons program.”

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