- The Washington Times
Monday, June 22, 2020

Allies and adversaries alike are challenging some of the revelations in — and dealing with the fallout from — John R. Bolton’s controversial new memoir.

Israel, Japan and South Korea are speaking out about revelations in the book, while China and Russia have issued notably muted reactions to some of the explosive charges made by President Trump’s former national security adviser.

Washington was already buzzing about Mr. Bolton’s account of his contentious dealings with President Trump, but a tell-all memoir by the top White House security aide barely nine months after he left office was also certain to touch some live wires overseas as well.

A top South Korean national security adviser, on Monday called Mr. Bolton’s account of conversations in his “The Room Where it Happened” between Mr. Trump and the leaders of both North and South Korea “seriously distorted,” and could damage the push to ease tensions on the bitterly divided peninsula.

Mr. Bolton wrote that South Korean President Moon Jae-in placed all his energy on his “unification agenda,” resulting in a North Korea policy Mr. Bolton described as “schizophrenic.” Mr. Bolton, a longtime hawk on North Korea, also claimed that Mr. Moon insisted on accompanying Mr. Trump to his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, despite requests by the U.S. and the North for only its leaders to participate.

“[The book] does not reflect accurate facts,” Chung Eui-yong, head of Seoul’s National Security Office, said in a statement Monday. “The truth is seriously distorted in large parts.”

While not citing specifics, Mr. Chung urged the U.S. government to “take appropriate measures to prevent such a dangerous precedent.”

“Such inappropriate actions could seriously damage the efforts to strengthen the two countries’ security interests,” he continued. “Unilaterally publishing consultations made based on mutual trust violates the basic principles of diplomacy and could severely damage future negotiations.”

In Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was forced to deny another charge in Mr. Bolton’s book — that the Trump administration last year had pushed Tokyo to bear a higher cost-sharing burden than previously reported, according to the Japan Times.

Mr. Bolton said the demand from Mr. Trump was part of a negotiating tactic the president had deemed “cost plus 50%” from allies that hosted U.S. troops — but that no one on either side knew exactly how much more Japanese defense spending would satisfy the president.

The high opening demand “puts you in a very strong bargaining position,” the author quotes Mr. Trump as saying.

Mr. Bolton’s chapter on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations portrayed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as dismissive of the ability of White House aide and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner to forge a real peace deal. Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Bolton wrote, “was enough of a politician not to oppose the idea publicly, but like much of the world, he wondered why Kushner thought he would succeed where the likes of Kissinger had failed.”

Mr. Netanyahu publicly praised Mr. Kushner, telling reporters Monday that — despite the book — he has “complete faith in Jared Kushner’s abilities and resolve and rejects any description to the contrary.” One of the most significant claims in Mr. Bolton’s book, that Mr. Trump prodded Chinese President Xi Jinping to help boost his reelection campaign through increased purchases of U.S. farm goods, and that Mr. Trump gave Mr. Xi a pass on human rights violations such as the interning of up to 1 million Muslim Uighurs in China’s northwest.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters last week that Beijing does not intend to interfere in U.S. domestic affairs, and that it will not get involved, according to state-run media outlet Global Times.

The publication wrote that Mr. Bolton “is using his book to smear China for getting involved in the U.S. election and vent on Trump. He also wants to further muddy the waters of US domestic politics,” citing experts on the matter.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday of the book’s passages on Russia and Mr. Trump’s relationship with President Vladimir Putin that “one can agree with some of them, and one can disagree with some of them, that’s why you need to look at individual messages here.”

Mr. Bolton wrote that Mr. Trump only reluctantly applied sanctions on Russia, and in post-publication interviews has said he believes Mr. Putin thinks he can play [Trump] like a fiddle.”

Mr. Peskov declined to take the bait, saying “the characterization which Bolton gave his commander-in-chief, whom he had served under as an assistant for a year, is none of our business.”

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