Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton is cheering President Trump for a strong address to the United Nations this week and for perhaps already reaping critical results in his effort to isolate North Korea.
On Thursday, Trump announced a new round of U.S. sanctions aimed at North Korea and also reported that China is vowing to deal a major financial blow to the communist regime in Pyongyang.
“Today I’m announcing a new executive order I just signed that significantly expands our authorities to target individuals, companies, financial institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea,” said Trump.
Bolton says this could be a very significant move.
“It’s potentially significant because if we were to sanction companies or banks doing business with North Korea, that could have a knock-on effect to other countries doing the same and could effect their ability to do transactions in the United States,” said Bolton.
He says it leaves those banks and corporations with a stark choice.
“Do you want to do business with us or do you want to do business with North Korea? Your choice entirely, but it’s going to be one or the other,” said Bolton.
Bolton likes the aggressive nature of the sanctions.
“Why didn’t we do this about eight or ten years ago? Why is it that we’ve waited this long? I think we have the answer. I think President Trump is determined to do something about North Korea and Iran and their nuclear programs,” said Bolton.
Bolton served as ambassador to the United Nations for President George W. Bush. So why didn’t these sanctions come then?
“There was a lot of discussion in the Bush administration about sanctions but (there was) a lot of opposition to really squeezing North Korea. Ultimately, I don’t think we did really anywhere near what we could have,” said Bolton.
He says there was virtually no chance for stiff penalties in the Obama years.
“There was no appetite for sanctions against North Korea. They were exercising what they called ‘strategic patience’ in the Obama administration. That’s a synonym for doing nothing and the North Koreans took advantage of it,” said Bolton.
Just as importantly, Bolton says the new sanctions turn the screws on China as well.
“The vast bulk of the institutions doing business with North Korea – financial, commodities, machinery, you name it – are Chinese. China, for 25 years, frankly, has two-timed us on their concern about the North Korean nuclear program. So this gives the president some bite,” said Bolton.
That may have already paid off Thursday, as, Trump announced news that seemed to surprise even him, as China appears ready to play hardball with Kim Jong-Un as well.
“China, their central bank has told other banks – and it’s a massive banking system – to immediately stop doing business with North Korea,” said Trump.
Bolton says if China is serious about taking this step it could have a huge impact on North Korea. However, he says it is very tough to determine if China is making good on such a policy.
“I think that’s difficult from the outside. God knows how many banks there are and how many new banks can be created that might be able to facilitate North Korean trade, for example with Iran,” said Bolton.
Trump made major headlines with his blunt talk about North Korea in his speech on Tuesday.
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary,” said Trump.
Bolton says Trump struck exactly the right tone.
“I thought it was entirely appropriate. Some of these people who talk about what’s becoming or unbecoming to say at the UN. Honestly, the United Nations is not a church. You’re not supposed to be reverential towards threats to international peace and security and innocent American civilians,” said Bolton, who thought the Trump approach was refreshing after the past eight years.
“After eight years of global governance kind of rhetoric from Obama and the weakness that he projected, maybe some people are shocked when they hear what a real American president has to say. All in all, I think it’s the right thing for the president to do. In America, plain speaking is a virtue and it’s important that these other countries hear it,” said Bolton.
Bolton also lauded Trump for labeling the Iran nuclear deal an “embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” He says that puts the onus on Trump to get out of the deal soon.
“If you don’t certify but stay in the deal that you’ve described already as embarrassing, I think that’s unpresidential. It’s sort of a one shoe on, one shoe off foreign policy. He needs to lead with moral and political clarity. I think the way you do that is to say this deal is a disaster for the United States and its friends and allies and we’re getting out of it,” said Bolton.