- President Donald Trump’s idea to personally meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Korean border caught his top advisers by surprise, according to former national security adviser John Bolton.
- Secretary of state Mike Pompeo described it as “complete chaos,” Bolton wrote in his upcoming memoir.
- “I felt sick that a stray tweet could actually result in a meeting, although I took some solace from believing that what motivated Trump was the press coverage and photo op of this unprecedented DMZ get-together, not anything substantive,” Bolton wrote.
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President Donald Trump’s idea to personally meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Korean border caught his top advisers by surprise, including his secretary of state, who described it as “complete chaos,” according to former national security adviser John Bolton.
Bolton’s account of the sequence of events comes from his upcoming memoir, “The Room Where It Happened.” In the book, Bolton recounted how he first discovered Trump’s inclination to meet with Kim at the border in 2019 — through the president’s Twitter account.
In an afternoon tweet in June, Trump said he would agree to meet Kim “just to shake his hand and say hello,” during his tour of East Asia.
“Mulvaney showed me a tweet on his cell phone, asking if I knew about it, which I did not,” Bolton wrote, referring to then-acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Bolton described Mulvaney as being “just as flabbergasted as I was” with the tweet, which the adviser initially considered “a throwaway.”
Mulvaney later consulted with Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo about drafting a formal invitation to the North Korean regime. Bolton, an outspoken hawk on North Korea, strongly opposed the meeting and described it as political theater on behalf of Trump’s optics.
“I felt sick that a stray tweet could actually result in a meeting, although I took some solace from believing that what motivated Trump was the press coverage and photo op of this unprecedented DMZ get-together, not anything substantive,” Bolton wrote.
Behind closed doors, Pompeo also appeared to agree with Bolton.
“I have no value added on this,” Pompeo said privately, according to Bolton. “This is complete chaos.”
Despite Pompeo’s bewilderment of the developments, he “had succumbed yet again” by liaising the eventual meeting, Bolton wrote.
Trump met Kim at the Military Demarcation Line separating the border at around 3:45 p.m. local time and shook the leader’s hand — a similar scene to that of the first summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April 2018.
After some brief comments, Kim welcomed Trump to step over the line and into the North Korean side of the border. Trump briefly stepped over the line and took several steps into North Korea, becoming the first sitting US president to do so.
The two leaders later held a roughly 45-minute bilateral meeting at the Freedom House on the southern side of the DMZ. Following the meeting, Trump walked Kim back to the Military Demarcation Line.
“To be honest, I was surprised after I saw the president express his intention,” Kim said during the meeting, adding that he did not know until the late afternoon that he would be “formally” meeting Trump.
Bolton was fired from his post in September 2019 and eventually replaced with Robert O’Brien, Trump’s fourth national security adviser. His book contains numerous unflattering accounts of the Trump administration, including one that claims Trump approved of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to construct concentration camps for Uighur Muslims.
The White House, which railed against the book and described it as “debunked” fiction, has filed a lawsuit to prevent the book’s publication. The Trump administration argues that Bolton breached non-disclosure agreements and the information contained within the memoir would jeopardize classified state secrets.