On March 19, Bolton told Radio Free Asia that he hopes Trump will follow the Libya model in demanding that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons, and that it could be a “very short meeting” if Kim refuses. But the North Korean leader has regularly cited Libya as an example of why he needs nuclear weapons — to deter a U.S. invasion.
“It is such an implausible demand of North Korea that you set yourself up for failure,” Lindsey Ford, director of political-security affairs for the Asia Society Policy Institute in Washington, said of Bolton’s proposal. “If that is your negotiating strategy, I don’t see any path to success.”
There is every reason to assume that Bolton wants to set the U.S. up to fail at the proposed summit, because he sees no value in any diplomatic exchange that doesn’t result in the other side’s surrender. He isn’t interested in a “path to success” because that would involve making concessions to North Korea that he is ideologically incapable of supporting. It is absurd to think that North Korea would agree to the same terms that Libya accepted 15 years ago when the former has a much more advanced program and already possesses nuclear weapons. Expecting that they would agree to disarm after seeing what happened to Gaddafi is just stupid.
More to the point, Gaddafi was not treated as a pariah by Western governments between the time he made the deal and the 2011 intervention. Western governments and companies started doing business with Libya again in exchange for the Libyan government’s agreement to abandon its programs and its support for terrorism. The Trump administration has shown no interest in working out a similar deal with Kim, and Bolton has publicly stated his opposition to giving North Korea anything. Libya received much more than Bolton is willing to offer North Korea, and that was offered to get Gaddafi to give up a much less advanced nuclear program. What are the chances that North Korea would make much larger concessions in return for no benefits? If they aren’t zero, they are so close as to be practically the same. Bolton’s belief that North Korea should give up everything in exchange for nothing proves beyond any doubt that he has no wish to find a diplomatic solution and is just looking for a pretext for conflict.