WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Only weeks after John Bolton's hard-line rhetoric infuriated North Korea and nearly disrupted a planned summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, the US national security adviser. Mike Pompeo seems to have gone into the background for the historic meeting.
While it is expected that the Bolton hawk, who has adopted a discreet approach in recent days, is in Singapore for the talks on Tuesday, Pompeo has taken the lead and that the administration assumes a softer tone towards Pyongyang before the summit, several US officials said.
Pompeo's ancestry combined with Bolton's more discreet public role illustrates how the sometimes messy power dynamic in Trump's inner circle has developed in the first meeting among US leaders. UU And from North Korea.
But Trump's ability to achieve the greatest foreign-policy success of his presidency could depend to a large extent on the team he has improvised to advise him after announcing in March that he was prepared to meet with Kim in an effort to convince the leader North Korea to renounce a nuclear arsenal that now threatens the United States.
"This summit is being organized faster than anyone we've seen for something so important," said a US official. UU., That spoke under condition of anonymity. "So, unless we want the president to be played by Kim, a lot depends on the team that is putting all this together."
Pompeo, first as director of Trump's CIA and now as its chief diplomat, quickly turned North Korea into its main focus. But even as Pompeo launched a delicate diplomacy, Bolton, a former UN ambassador with a history of tenacious dealings with Pyongyang, took his place and began to pressure North Korea for a more severe approach than he has long advocated. .
It was never as clear as when Bolton appeared on television on May 13, a few days after Pompeo returned from a second visit to Pyongyang, and pressured North Korea to follow the "Libyan model" in nuclear negotiations . Libya unilaterally handed over its nuclear weapons program in 2003, but its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, was assassinated in 2011 by NATO-backed rebels.
Bolton's claim infuriated North Korea, which threatened to withdraw from the summit. Trump, who according to a US official was furious because Bolton had made the comparison with Libya,
tried to save the meeting by denying his comments.
But North Korea responded harshly. Trump, on May 24, canceled the summit, and then reinstated it a week later, after meeting with a North Korean envoy at the White House, where the president seemed to move away from his demand for the complete and rapid denuclearization of Pyongyang.
Bolton, once denounced by North Korea as "human scum" during his days at the State Department under former President George W. Bush, was conspicuously absent from the meeting in the Oval Office, prompting speculation that he was marginalized.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
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Trump, however, has not stopped Bolton in North Korea and remains a key player, according to several US officials.
Bolton, known as a skilled bureaucratic operator, has "taken the hint" to assume a lower profile and is aware that his previous confrontations with Pyongyang could cause problems that should be avoided, one of the officials said. Before taking office, Bolton openly advocated the North Korean "regime change".
Bolton has not made public comments since the president distanced himself from the comparison of Libya and the White House insisted that the "Trump model" would follow.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday that Bolton would travel to Singapore. "Secretary of State Pompeo clearly took the lead in the negotiations," he told reporters. "But the national security adviser is going, he will go to Singapore and he will be part of the talks."
Initially, Pompeo developed a relationship with Trump by offering his morning intelligence reports. Trump's faith in Pompeo is considered a key factor in entrusting the portfolio of North Korea. But some US officials and analysts have expressed concern over what they see as the former Republican congressman's habit of telling Trump what he wants to hear.
Suzanne DiMaggio, principal investigator of the New America Foundation think tank, suggested that if the negotiations soured, "then we have Mr. Bolton threatening in the background, ready to jump."
Also expected to play an important role in the Trump summit team is Matt Pottinger, adviser to Trump in Asia who informs Bolton in the National Security Council. The former journalist and ex-U.S. Marine has helped coordinate the policy of North Korea and Korean observers consider it a pragmatic voice.
Sung Kim, a veteran diplomat who serves as ambassador to the Philippines, was called to lead a small delegation that met in recent days with North Korean officials in the demilitarized zone between the Koreas to discuss the summit's agenda. He is a former ambassador to Seoul and a former Pyongyang nuclear negotiator.
It was a reminder that the administration does not have much experience in Asia, especially after the departure of North Korean negotiator Joseph Yun, delays the creation of a new ambassador in South Korea and the lack of a diplomat confirmed by the Senate for East Asia.
Report by Matt Spetalnick and David Brunnstrom; Additional reports by John Walcott and Steve Holland; Edition of Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney