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Politics

Trump slams Bolton for mishandling North Korea talks

Push for 'Libyan model' set back nuclear negotiations, US president says

John Bolton, then the national security adviser, left, listens as U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Feb. 12.   © Reuters

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he fired John Bolton as national security adviser because of missteps in negotiations with North Korea.

"He made some very big mistakes," Trump said.

Bolton had urged a so-called Libyan model for dealing with North Korea, or have the country abandon its nuclear program before the U.S. agreed to any concessions. The proposal angered Pyongyang, given Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed by U.S.-backed rebels less than a decade after giving up nuclear programs.

"It set us back," Trump said of Bolton's proposal.

The U.S. president also said he does not "blame Kim Jong Un for what he said after that," and that Kim "wanted nothing to do with John Bolton."

During and before Bolton's tenure in the White House, Pyongyang had called the now-ousted national security adviser a "warmonger" and "human scum" for his remarks on North Korea-related issues.

Trump said he was considering five candidates to replace Bolton, and would make a decision next week.

The implications of the dismissal extend to such allies as Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has held a hard line against Pyongyang. "The Japanese government was counting on Bolton, considering his insistence on pressuring North Korea," says Kazuhiro Maeshima, professor of political science at Sophia University.

With Bolton's departure, "the U.S. is now even more likely to accept Kim's demand for a phased approach to talks, and formal negotiations seem poised to restart," Cliff Kupchan, chairman of Eurasia Group, a think tank, wrote in a Tuesday note. "A breakthrough deal involving Kim agreeing to abandon his nuclear arsenal, however, remains very unlikely."

Nikkei staff writer Shinya Oshino contributed to this article.

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