Report: Renewed US-North Korea tensions followed Trump, Kim battles with own advisers

Report: Renewed US-North Korea tensions followed Trump, Kim battles with own advisers

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE and North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnKim: North Korea's nuclear weapons will prevent war The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Angie Craig says we need an equitable distribution plan for an eventual vaccine that reaches all communities; Moderna vaccine enters phase 3 trial in US today North Korea declares state of emergency due to a suspected COVID-19 case MORE battled with their own advisers as they negotiated denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula before tensions were recently renewed, according to a report in The Washington Post

Federal officials announced Thursday the first-ever seizure of a North Korean cargo vessel for violating U.S. sanctions, which came shortly after North Korea tested two short-range ballistic missiles, the first confirmed test by Pyongyang in over 500 days.

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The renewed tensions, which followed a months-long lull in escalation as negotiations continued, highlighted the limits of what Trump has cast as a rosy relationship with Kim. 

“He sends him pictures. He sends him letters. I don’t know how President Trump can be more forthcoming in his efforts to have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonHannity's first book in 10 years debuts at No. 1 on Amazon Congress has a shot at correcting Trump's central mistake on cybersecurity The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence MORE told "PBS NewsHour."

“We had very substantive negotiations with Kim Jong Un - we know what they want and they know what we must have. Relationship very good, let’s see what happens!” Trump himself tweeted in March after leaving a nuclear summit with Kim in Vietnam.

Yet the talks have reportedly been hampered by internal feuding on both sides of the negotiating table, multiple sources tell the Post.

Kim demoted his top nuclear negotiator Kim Yong Chol in April, according to the Post, casting aside a hard-liner who butted heads with U.S. negotiators.

Trump also defied some advisers’ concerns this week when he told South Korea’s president in a phone conversation that he supports aid for North Korea to ease food shortages, which some fear would ease internal pressure on Kim to negotiate.

The president was also aggravated in March after ruling out future sanctions against Pyongyang, only to find out that penalties had been levied without his approval.

“What’s really striking is how in both systems, the bureaucracies aren’t always moving in the same direction as the leaders are signaling,” Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Post.

Trump singled out Bolton at a press conference Thursday, saying he has to “temper” the well-known hard-liner.

“He has strong views on things, but that’s okay. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing isn’t it?” Trump said at an impromptu briefing. “I have other people who are a little more dovish than him, and ultimately I make the decision.”

Officials told the Post that the president kept Bolton away from a dinner with Kim in March and told advisers that Bolton would not help him reach a deal with Kim because he had such negative views of the North Korean government.

National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said Bolton is “pursuing the president’s national security agenda, and he has repeatedly emphasized that the president has opened the door for North Korea to enter into a very bright economic future.” 

The National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

Despite the internal feuds, Trump officials say they are determined to reach a deal with North Korea.

“President Trump’s summit with Chairman Kim in Hanoi was a very productive meeting, though the time was not right to sign a deal,” Steve Biegun, U.S. special representative on North Korea, told the Post. “We believe working-level talks are the best way to make progress at this time.”

“I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it,” Trump tweeted after North Korea launched short-range projectiles last week. “He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”