Despite the slander you might have heard, US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s meeting in Mongolia this weekend — which kept him from joining President Donald Trump’s confab with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — was long-planned and totally unavoidable.
Eyebrows were first raised when it became clear that despite the massive implications of Trump’s (maybe?) impromptu meeting with Kim, Bolton was nowhere to be found — even though Ivanka Trump and Fox News host Tucker Carlson were there.
As news networks were still covering the handshake and lengthy meeting between Kim and Trump, Bolton tweeted Sunday that he was “delighted” to be in Mongolia, meeting with Mongolian Secretary of State Davaasuren Damdinsuren.
This picture, released by the US Embassy in Ulaanbaatar, clearly captures that delight.
The fact that Bolton was hundreds of miles away from the DMZ was met with no small number of jokes about his banishment.
But despite the inferences that could be drawn, Bolton was not relegated to Mongolia to keep him away from the North Koreans. He does have a long-standing beef with them that goes both ways. Back in May, an anonymous North Korea Foreign Ministry spokesperson was published in state-run KCNA News calling Bolton “ignorant,” “a warmonger,” and “a defective human product.”
For his part, Bolton argued in the Wall Street Journal that there was clearly a legal case for striking North Korea as soon as possible, just weeks before his appointment in the White House was announced last year.
But a senior administration official told BuzzFeed News via email that Bolton’s trip to Mongolia wasn’t about the North Korea meeting at all. Instead, the official said, the trip to Ulaanbaatar was was added to Bolton’s schedule “approximately a month ago.”
The official also noted that “Mongolia is a critical bilateral relationship for the US and the Admin is eager to deepen ties” and noted that Bolton “also visited Jerusalem to meet with Israelites and Russians on this 10 day trip.”
BuzzFeed News followed up to ask the White House whether the national security adviser considered canceling his scheduled trip to travel to South Korea instead when the DMZ meeting became a thing.
“Ambassador Bolton is the first US official to visit Mongolia since Secretary John Kerry,” Garrett Marquis, Bolton’s longtime spokesperson, told BuzzFeed News in an email. “Mongolia is an important partner of the US in the [Indo-Pacific] region.”
So there you have it! There’s nothing that John Bolton wanted more than to be in Mongolia instead of meeting with the North Koreans about their nuclear program, an issue that he has a deep interest in and long-lasting views about! Case: closed.