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Washington, Seoul and Bolton’s bombshell memoir

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On June 24, South Korea and the United States commemorated the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. The two nations’ defense chiefs reaffirmed their commitment to the bilateral alliance, which “is built on mutual trust and shared values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.”

This noble spirit of the security alliance, as depicted in former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton’s bombshell tell-all memoir just published the day before, may no longer exist. In his new book, Bolton harshly criticized South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s efforts to denuclearize North Korea as “nonsense” and “schizophrenic.”

No wonder South Korean officials were furious. Chung Eui-yong, Bolton’s counterpart in Seoul, reportedly said that “a considerable portion of it is distorted.” He also described the book as Bolton’s “own viewpoint,” not “accurate facts,” and a violation of the basic principle of diplomacy based on mutual trust.

As a former Japanese diplomat, I fully echo Chung’s concerns. Difficult negotiations involve secrets. Diplomats will not disclose details of their exchanges or interactions because it could undermine the outcome of negotiations. In that sense Bolton was just an ideologue, not a diplomat.

Still, the criticism in Seoul that “America’s neocon is in cahoots with Japan, hindering inter-Korean reconciliation” is equally appalling. Seen from Tokyo, the government of South Korea looks as responsible as Bolton for the mutual distrust between Washington and Seoul, for the following reasons.

It takes two to tango

Ten years ago, I........

© The Japan Times