WASHINGTON — Evidence continues to mount that elements of the U.S. government are determined to sabotage the Korea peace talks, and the newest member of the Trump administration’s National Security Council is just the latest indication that such efforts are indeed underway. On Monday, Anthony Ruggiero — North Korea expert and senior fellow at the hawkish, neoconservative think tank the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) — officially joined the Council, where he will hold a key post on the team focusing on North Korea policy and thus the administration’s response to ongoing negotiations with North and South Korea.
Ruggiero — whose hire was initially announced in March, soon after John Bolton became National Security Adviser, with apparently full autonomy on staffing decisions — was sought out in order to “strengthen the NSC’s hand on the North Korea sanctions front, specifically to focus on the potential to more aggressively target Chinese banks with sanctions.” Indeed, Ruggiero has been one of the most aggressive proponents of the draconian sanctions targeting North Korea — having argued that the Trump administration, prior to negotiations, did not go far enough — and was also the leading advocate for sanctions against Chinese, Russian and other banks in order to starve North Korea’s economy of foreign cash.
Ruggiero has consistently asserted that negotiations with North Korean leadership are useless, claiming “North Korea has a PhD in fleecing the U.S. and its allies for inducements to give up its weapons programs, knowing that they are not going to do that.” Ruggerio’s long-held view is that any stance North Korea would take during negotiations would be disingenuous and an amount to an attempt by its government to deceive the U.S. and its allies. Ruggerio has also asserted that – were sanctions to fail – more “extreme” measures would become necessary.
Ruggiero a bad fit for peace process?
However, now that peace is the administration’s nominal goal and sanctions are set to wind down, Ruggiero’s hire was never called off. Though troubling, this decision is unsurprising given that the NSC is headed by John Bolton, who – like Ruggiero – has long claimed that “negotiations […] will never produce the result we want, which is Kim giving up his nuclear program.” Bolton also has a close relationship with the FDD, where Ruggiero worked prior to his hire at the NSC, as the DC-based think tank, like Bolton himself, has supported aggressive actions against Iran, North Korea and other “rogue” states. The association is hardly surprising given that the FDD has long been called the successor to the now defunct think tank Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which was instrumental in promoting the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses. Bolton was an early signatory of PNAC and a member of its parent organization, the American Enterprise Institute.
Ruggiero’s hire seems to indicate that Bolton is seeking to stock the NSC with North Korea hawks to continue his long-standing efforts to derail any effort aimed at resolving hostilities on the Korean peninsula peacefully. As MintPress reported on several occasions, Bolton was not only responsible for destroying a previous agreement with North Korea — the 1994 Agreed Framework — but almost single-handedly torpedoed the recent negotiations by comparing North Korean denuclearization to Libyan denuclearization. Of course, the so-called “Libya model” turned that country into a failed state and the comparison understandably infuriated North Korea.
Thus, given Bolton’s background and his recent efforts to prevent peace from breaking out on the Korean peninsula, Ruggiero’s presence on the NSC is set to bolster Bolton’s personal efforts to undermine the ongoing negotiations
Indications of sabotage?
Ruggiero is joining the NSC at an interesting time, as several indications have arisen in just the last week that powerful forces are working overtime to ensure that the Korea peace talks fail. First, MintPress reported last week that the Pentagon seemed to be betting against a peaceful resolution to the Korean conflict, as it moved ahead with a $1 billion missile defense radar project aimed at tracking North Korean missiles and announced that the U.S.’ approximately 32,000 troops stationed in South Korea would be staying regardless of how peace negotiations proceed.
As MintPress has noted in the past, U.S. weapons manufacturers stand to lose significant revenue in the event of peace on the Korean peninsula, while the U.S. military would lose regional influence were its troop presence rendered obsolete due to an end of hostilities between North and South Korea.
In addition to the Pentagon’s apparent preparations for a collapse in peace talks, recent media reports seem to indicate that there are efforts to hijack the narrative of ongoing negotiations by suggesting that the North Koreans are being disingenuous.
For instance, U.S.-based website 38 North released satellite imagery last week that purported to show that North Korea was upgrading infrastructure at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, which the site claimed to be used in the production of weapons-grade fissile material. U.S. pundits used the report to assert that North Korea was “playing” the U.S., an assertion that both Ruggiero and Bolton have repeated ad nauseam. Furthermore, 38 North’s report came soon after the site became housed within the Stimson Center, a think tank that is well-connected to defense contractors such as Boeing and the hawkish RAND corporation.
A few days after 38 North issued its controversial report, NBC News ran a report that claimed North Korea is increasing nuclear production at “secret sites,” citing anonymous CIA officials but providing no concrete evidence to support this claim. The credibility of NBC’s report is questionable for more than its reliance on evidence-free claims of anonymous CIA officials. The author of the report, Ken Dilanian, is a known CIA media asset, who was fired from his previous post at the LA Times due to his close collaboration with the U.S. intelligence community.
These recent events, along with Ruggiero’s new presence at the NSC, suggest that powerful government interests are doing all they can to prevent a peaceful resolution to the Korean conflict, putting the interests of the U.S. military-industrial complex above those of the Korean and American people.
Top Photo | John Bolton listens to question as speaks to the media after his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia. Bolton said Sunday, July 1, the U.S. has a plan that would lead to the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in a year. Alexander Zemlianichenko | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.