National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday that the United States had the “Libya model” in mind for its future dealings with North Korea, an odd comparison given that Libya’s disarmament prefaced the overthrow and brutal murder of its leader, Moammar Gadhafi.
“We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004,” Bolton told Fox News’ Chris Wallace in an interview Sunday.
He added later that the United States sought “the full, complete, total disclosure of everything related their nuclear weapons program, with full international verification and, I think, following Libya, verification by Americans and other inspectors could be very important here.”
He told CBS’ “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan: “One thing that Libya did that led us to overcome our skepticism was that they allowed American and British observers into all their nuclear-related sites. So it wasn’t a question of relying on international mechanisms, we saw them in ways we had never seen before.”
But the comment raised eyebrows given Bolton’s well-known reputation as an extreme hawk. Before joining the Trump administration, Bolton broadcast his distrust of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and, as recently as February, wrote “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First” in the Wall Street Journal.
Responding to Bolton’s Libya references, analyst Ian Bremmer told Brennan later in her broadcast that the North Koreans “know what the eventual outcome of the Libyan model was, which was Gadhafi gave up the ability to put together nuclear and chemical weapons and he ended up dead.”
Indeed, North Korean officials have referenced Libya in the past as an argument against denuclearization.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said last year that Kim “has watched, I think, what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability.”
“The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukes,” he added, “is, unfortunately: If you had nukes, never give them up. If you don’t have them, get them.”
And Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the retiring chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has regularly referred to the lessons Kim learned from Libya: “He views having deliverable nuclear weapons as his ticket to dying as an old man in his bed. He saw what happened with Gadhafi. Gadhafi’s a dead man now because he gave up his nuclear weapons,” he told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last week.