Bolton spoke for nearly a half hour to about 435 guests of the 25th annual Charles H. Taylor Holiday Dinner, in the Crowne Plaza Resort Expo Center.
Walrus-mustached Bolton is familiar as a conservative political commentator on Fox News. He specializes in foreign policy. He is an American Enterprise Institute senior fellow, and senior advisor for Freedom Capital Investment management. Baltimore native Bolton, 69, has a Yale law degree.
Bolton said the best way to deal with “volatile” adversaries is Ronald Reagan’s approach of peace through strength and deterrence. For instance, he supports a stronger missile defense system such as in Europe.
North Korea is “on the verge of thermonuclear weapons,” which it is spreading to Iran and other U.S. adversaries, Bolton warned. “Whatever North Korea has today, Iran will get tomorrow.”
He said North Korea is now launching potent “thermonuclear blasts.” North Korea has conducted a half-dozen nuclear explosions in the last 11 years including at least two this year, and has also tested more than 80 rocket launches to boost range and accuracy.
Further, reports are North Korea has as many as 60 nuclear bombs, has chemical weapons, and can launch sudden surprise missile attacks from submarines or mobile launch pads.
Nuclear warheads may now be miniaturized enough to fit intercontinental missiles, many analysts say. The last hurdle North Korea may soon clear is improving missile reentry into the atmosphere, and GPS tracking to more accurately reach targets.
Tribune Papers’ Publisher David Morgan grins with son Oby Morgan, back left, as Charles Taylor laughs at David’s quip. Taylor’s son, Charles Robert Taylor, stands back right. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Tests this year indicate range is now enough to reach the U.S., Bolton noted. The next phase is to pinpoint aim at specific American cities. North Korea is on track to attain that “by the end of next year” by some estimates, Bolton cautioned. This puts time on the enemy’s side.
Bolton did not suggest bombing nuclear facilities in Iran or North Korea. But he noted a “pre-emptive strike” is among options out there for the U.S. or ally Israel, whereas diplomacy has failed. He agrees with others it would be disastrous if an all-out ground war erupted between the two Koreas.
He refutes what he said are Democrats’ view that North Korea is the new member of nuclear superpowers, that it should be allowed to retain and advance its weaponry, or economic penalties should be lifted or eased to try to get that nation to reverse its nuclear program.
“It’s a myth to think a regime as irrational as North Korea can be as contained as the Soviet Union was in the Cold War,” he said. Further, the U.S. cannot “live under nuclear blackmail” inevitable once North Korea then Iran perfect nuclear capabilities.
Some wonder if the difference in rhetoric between hawkish Trump and conciliatory Sec. of State. Rex Tillerson is a “good cop/bad copy” ploy to have more leverage with North Korea at the bargaining table. Others go much more by Trump than Tillerson, for official policy.
Trump when visiting Japan after Thanksgiving reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to defend Japan if attacked (by North Korea) — by conventional or nuclear means.
Bolton takes Trump’s side. He said “economic sanctions don’t work” — as North Korea has plowed ahead in its nuclear program, and Iran will too after the pact with Obama. He further said North Korea has broken past anti-nuclear promises, and the U.S.-South Korea pact of 2013 “did not solve it” either. There was talk then of increased deterrence, by improving South Korean missile capability of striking North Korean military facilities.
He said adversaries typically cheat, such as moving weapons or shielding them such as “under a mountain in North Korea.” Iraq’s chemical weapons were reportedly hidden in neighboring Syria, to evade U.N. inspections.
China is the wild card, as North Korea’s main economic supplier. The Chinese indicated after talks with Trump this year they will lean on its ally by adhering more to trade bans, but so far has not done so, Bolton said.
Unless that happens North Korea will get by, rather than spend less on weaponry in the face of continued sanctions to spend more on its communist economy. He equates Kim Jong Un’s third-generation, family-run totalitarian regime essentially to a 25 million people “prison camp” of underfed citizens.
A domino effect is North Korea spreading its nukes to other U.S. adversaries. A major tag-team allies instigators North Korea and Iran, Bolton said. He said “oil-rich” Iran can afford to buy nuclear technology from “desperately-poor seller” North Korea economically weakened by sanctions.
His prior talks in the Asheville area include at Brevard College a month ahead of the 2012 presidential election, and in September of 2016 at Trump’s rally in the U.S. Cellular Center.
Bolton’s diplomatic career soared under Reagan and both Pres. Bushes. In 1981, Bolton was general counsel for the U.S. Agency for International Development. He rose to assistant attorney general, for the Civil Division in ‘88-89.
Shifted to diplomacy, he was assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs in ‘89-93 under Pres. George H.W. Bush. Next, in 2001-05, he was George W. Bush’s undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs.
Bolton was U.S. ambassador to the U.N. for over a year, to late 2006. He was rumored a year ago to be in the running as Trump’s secretary of state or national security advisor.
Bolton often speaks about nuclear, terrorist and economic threats from foreign foes that he saw strengthening as U.S. policy weakened under Barack Obama.
Bolton praised Trump for his recently declaring recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — a reality since 1948 that Congress recognized 12 years ago but prior presidents still shunned. Bolton jested “for 70 years we couldn’t figure out where Israel’s capital was.”
Trump did “right” and kept a campaign promise, Bolton said, to withstand “pressure” to appease Islamic interests and fear of increased terrorist attacks.
“We were intimidated by that threat of violence” that Bolton says is often “instigated” by Iran and Turkey through surrogates. He said combative reaction to Trump’s declaration was less than many feared, and terrorists typically attack whether appeased or not.
He discounts the land-for-peace process, and hopes that rogue states will moderate. He said “when illusions disappear, reasonable people can realize prospects for progress.” Until then, he said, we face growing “threats of terrorist attack” such as recently in New York City and “proliferation of nuclear weapons.”
Critics rip Bolton as “alarmist” about Islamic threats, and overly anti-diplomacy with adversaries. He said it is too often futile to try to negotiate with violators of pacts, and zealots hell-bent on wiping out Israel and the U.S. and “fundamentally hostile to our way of life.” He said, “This is war — waged against the United States” and forcing a perpetual fight.
If the U.S. fully pulled out of Afghanistan where the Taliban is and Iraq where Isis and al-Quaeda are then such radical Islamic groups might take the fight more to the U.S. itself, Bolton warned. Their operations will “be based here.”
Bolton indicated he backs tighter scrutiny and profiling of people entering this country, to try to weed out would-be terrorists. He has warned about Chinese and North Korean “cyber-terrorism,” and Chinese and Russian global-economic expansionism.
Other Taylor dinner speakers included State House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County, 11th District GOP Chr. AubreyWoodard of Brevard, and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians former Principal Chief Michell Hicks.
Taylor and his son Charles Robert Taylor presented Individual American Eagle Awards for Public Service to former Superior Court judge Bruce Briggs, Edneyville High alum Don Harvey Garren who was State House GOP minority leader in 1967, and to Tribune co-founder David Morgan and his family.
Charles Hart Taylor, 76, served the longest (eight terms/16 years) of any 11th District congressman, in 1991-2007. The Brevard native touted the ongoing “challenge of carrying out the principles of our forefathers” such as for rights of property, religion and bearing arms.