Trump Undercuts Bolton on North Korea and Iran
THE NEW YORK TIMES
President Trump was grousing about John R. Bolton, his national security adviser, at his Florida club not long ago. Guests heard the president complaining about the advice he was getting and wondering if Mr. Bolton was taking him down a path he did not want to go.
For a president who runs hot and cold on nearly all of his advisers, private carping may not mean that much. But in recent days, the disconnect between Mr. Trump and his national security adviser has spilled over into public, sowing confusion around the world about America’s foreign policy, particularly on matters of war and peace.
The disparity was on stark display during Mr. Trump’s four-day visit to Japan that ended Tuesday after he contradicted Mr. Bolton on high-stakes confrontations with both Iran and North Korea. The president declared that, unlike his national security adviser, he was not seeking regime change in Iran and he asserted that, contrary to what Mr. Bolton had said, recent North Korean missile tests did not violate United Nations resolutions.
In playing dove to Mr. Bolton’s hawk, Mr. Trump may be simply keeping adversaries off balance, as some backers maintained. But questions about his relationship with his chief foreign policy coordinator have profound implications for the president as he tries to manage standoffs in Asia, the Middle East and South America without alienating the United States’ allies.
“As the trip to Japan reminds us, these breakdowns and interpersonal dramas happen when a lot of other things are going on in the world,” said John Gans, a former Pentagon official and the author of “White House Warriors,” a new history of the National Security Council and its role in military conflict.
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