Bolton: Trump "ready to keep talking" to North Korea after failed summit

Bolton: Trump "ready to keep talking" to North Korea

President Trump walked away from his second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Vietnam without a firm agreement in hand, failing to secure a deal to get the North to give up its nuclear program. But John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, argued the meeting was far from a failure and said Mr. Trump expects to be back at the negotiating table sometime in the future. 

"I don't consider the summit a failure. I consider it a success, defined as the president protecting and advancing American national interests," Bolton said on "Face the Nation" Sunday.

After "extensive" preparations and discussions with the North Koreans, Bolton said "the issue really was whether North Korea was prepared to accept what the president called the 'big deal,' which is denuclearization entirely, under a definition the president handed to Kim Jong Un, and have the potential for an enormous economic future, or try to do something less than that, which was unacceptable to us. So the president held firm to his view."

Despite those preparations, Mr. Trump and Kim appeared to have shown up in Vietnam without a clear understanding of each other's expectations, leaving the two leaders to cancel a planned lunch and signing ceremony and depart earlier than expected. Mr. Trump said the summit came to a halt because Kim demanded a complete lifting of U.S. sanctions against his regime in exchange for the North Koreans opening up just one key nuclear facility to some degree of inspection.

But Bolton said Mr. Trump is "ready to keep talking" and expects North Korea to reevaluate what transpired in Hanoi. 

"What President Trump was trying to do was look at what was possible for them overall," Bolton said Sunday. "He remains optimistic this is possible. Kim Jong Un himself said in our last meeting, you know, we're going to go through many stations before we achieve this deal. The meeting in Hanoi was one such station. So the president is ready to keep talking."

Bolton added the administration would maintain its economic sanctions and "maximum pressure" campaign, which "brought them to the table in the first place."

"Well see what happens next," he said. 

Asked if the U.S. made any counter-offers to the North Koreans to secure a deal in Vietnam, Bolton said a counter-offer "has been there from the beginning from the very first summit."

"If North Korea commits to complete denuclearization, including its ballistic missile program and its chemical and biological weapons programs, the prospect of economic progress is there," Bolton explained.  

But that's not what the North Koreans put on the table this time around. Bolton said they provided a "very limited concession," referring to the Yongbyon nuclear complex, and "some percentage of their uranium enrichment plutonium reprocessing capabilities."

In June 2018, Bolton said on "Face the Nation" that the U.S. could dismantle the North's nuclear program within a year if the country agreed to it. On Sunday, he said "there is no expiration date" on a potential deal. 

"The president is fully prepared to keep negotiating at lower levels or to speak to Kim Jong Un again when it's appropriate," Bolton said.

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    Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital