In an apparent attempt to get a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un back on track, US President Donald Trump distanced himself from his national security advisor’s comments on a potential path to denuclearization.
The summit, planned to be held in Singapore next month, was called into question by North Korea when the government said it would cancel the meeting if it “will be all about driving us into a corner.”
The statement, attributed to the North’s vice foreign minister Kim Kye-guan, also criticized recent comments from White House national security advisor John Bolton that the US was looking at the “Libyan model” for nuclear disarmament.
“The Libyan model is not a model that we have at all when we are thinking of North Korea,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “In Libya, we decimated that country. That country was decimated.”
“But the model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation,” Trump said. “We went in there to beat him. Now, that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely.”
Some suggested that Trump’s comments revealed a lack of understanding of what Bolton was referencing. Speaking last month, Bolton specifically cited the “Libya model of 2003, 2004,” referencing the process of verifying complete denuclearization.
Trump, recounting on Thursday repeatedly that Libya was “decimated,” appeared to be referring to the 2011 NATO-led coalition intervention in Libya. The aftermath of the operation saw the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, violently bludgeoned to death, a fate that was caught on cell phone video and broadcast to the world. This outcome – which came years after Gaddafi dismantled his nuclear program – not the model of denuclearization mentioned by Bolton, is considered by many to be one reason why Kim Jong-un might ultimately refuse to get rid of his nuclear weapons.
The US president also suggested that Kim’s threat to cancel the summit may have been influenced by China.
“If you remember two weeks ago, all of a sudden – out of nowhere – Kim Jong-un went to China to say hello again – second time – to President Xi,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.
“It could very well be that he’s influencing Kim Jong-un. We’ll see what happens. Meaning the President of China, President Xi, could be influencing,” Trump speculated.