Trump says looking at five 'highly qualified' people to replace Bolton

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Former US National Security Adviser John Bolton answers journalists questions in Minsk, Belarus, in this August 29, 2019 file photo. — AFP

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was considering five "very highly qualified" people to replace John Bolton as his national security adviser.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said Bolton, who he abruptly fired on Tuesday, had made some mistakes, including offending North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un by demanding that he follow a "Libyan model" and hand over all his nuclear weapons.

Trump said many people were interested in Bolton's position.

"There are five people that I consider very highly qualified," he said, without naming them. "We'll be announcing somebody next week, but we have some very highly qualified people."

He said he got along well with Bolton and hoped they parted on good terms, but added that the former adviser was out of line on Venezuela, which has been another of the administration's top foreign policy challenges.

While the two were mostly in sync on the need to push Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power, Trump had become increasingly impatient at the failure of a US-led campaign of sanctions and diplomacy to remove the socialist leader. Trump declined to comment on whether he would meet with Maduro.

Among the names being floated as possible Bolton successors are Stephen Biegun, special US envoy on North Korea; Richard Grenell, US ambassador to Germany; US hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien; and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

North Korea has denounced Bolton as a "war maniac" and "human scum".

Bolton has proposed using military force to overthrow the ruling Kim family and US officials have said he was responsible for the collapse of Trump and Kim's second summit in Vietnam in February.

Efforts to engage with North Korea nearly fell apart after Trump followed Bolton's advice in Hanoi and handed Kim a piece of paper that bluntly called for the transfer of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and bomb fuel to the United States.

The document effectively reprised Bolton's long-held "Libya model" of unilateral denuclearization that North Korea has repeatedly rejected and that analysts said would have been seen by Kim as insulting and provocative.

Trump announced he had fired Bolton a day after North Korea signaled a new willingness to resume stalled denuclearization talks, but then proceeded with the latest in a spate of missile launches.

Analysts say Bolton’s removal could help US efforts to revive the talks but will not make Washington's aim of persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons any easier. — Reuters


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