Politics

Trump Breaks With New Security Adviser Bolton on North Korea Plan

Records appear to contradict president’s claim that no U.S. official has ever negotiated with China

President Donald Trump, seen here in the White House Rose Garden last week, broke with his national security adviser when talking about North Korea on Thursday.  (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday broke with his national security adviser, denying that his administration is following the U.S. playbook in Libya — which led to the ouster and death of itsleader at the time — as it prepares for talks with North Korea.

“The Libya model is not a model we have at all with North Korea,” the president told reporters. “With [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un, he’d be there, running his country.

“In Libya we decimated that country,” Trump said, adding Kim would get “protections” and be allowed to have a military should the two strike a deal next month over the North’s nuclear arsenal and long-range missiles.

Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s longtime leader, gave up his illicit weapons in December 2003. But he was driven from office, which the Obama administration supported, and later killed in October 2011.

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National security adviser John Bolton had recently floated the “Libya model” as the one the Trump administration was using to craft its North Korea strategy. “I think we’re looking at the Libya model of 2003-2004.”

But Trump’s public contradiction of yet another senior adviser raises questions because Bolton appeared to be talking about what happened early last decade: the push to convince Gaddafi to surrender his weapons — not when he was killed eight years later.

In the brief — but remarkable — question-and-answer session with reporters, the president also made the brow-furrowing claim that no American official has ever negotiated a trade pact with China.

Government records suggest otherwise.

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The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s website says this: “Since China acceded to the WTO in December 2001, the United States and China have pursued a series of high-level bilateral dialogues in the areas of trade and investment.”

USTR lists four separate U.S.-China trade “dialogues” through which the United States has “sought not only to resolve significant trade and investment irritants, but also to encourage China to pursue market-oriented policies and become a more responsible member of the WTO.”

Trump also appeared to imply that no U.S. president or official has “represented” the United State in any trade negotiations with any country.

But comment is undermined by the president’s many statements slamming previous American presidents and officials for entering into what he has long called “bad” and “terrible” trade pacts with other countries. In fact, message is one that helped him win the White House in 2016. And since taking office, he has said he does not blame China and other countries, saying he blames previous American leaders. 

Trump once again appeared to say one thing and only moments later the opposite.

He expressed doubts about ongoing U.S.-China trade negotiations because the Asian giant has, in his view, gotten the best of the United States for years.

But later, he said things will turn out “fine” with China.

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