World / Politics

Japan says H.R. McMaster's resignation and John Bolton's appointment will not impact its North Korea response

Kyodo, AP

Tokyo said Friday the resignation of U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster will not impact the countries’ relationship at a time when the allies are working together to deal with the threat from North Korea.

“We have been closely exchanging views with the U.S. government, both between leaders and at the working level, so we don’t think there will be any particular negative influence,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said he was “a bit surprised” to see McMaster leave, as he met the national security adviser last week during his visit to Washington.

But Kono said he does not expect any change to U.S. policies on North Korea, citing the “complete agreement within the government” he witnessed during his trip.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday he will replace McMaster with John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations known as a hard-liner on North Korea and Iran. Bolton will take over on April 9 ahead of a planned meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May.

The exit of McMaster follows Trump’s dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week. Tillerson is expected to be replaced by Mike Pompeo, the Central Intelligence Agency director.

“I hope I can meet both the new secretary of state and the new (national security) adviser at an early date,” Kono said.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Bolton gives off “an impression that he takes a hard line on North Korea.” Bolton will be Trump’s third national security adviser.

According to a White House official, Trump and McMaster had been discussing the personnel change “for some time,” but decided to expedite the move as they “both felt it was important to have the new team in place, instead of constant speculation.”

Trump tweeted Thursday that McMaster has done “an outstanding job & will always remain my friend.”

Still, the U.S. president has clashed with the respected three-star general in the past, and talk that McMaster would soon leave the administration had picked up in recent weeks. The White House said his exit was not due to any one incident.

In a statement released by the White House, McMaster said he would be requesting retirement from the U.S. Army effective this summer, adding that afterward he “will leave public service.”

Bolton, who has served as a hawkish voice in Republican foreign policy circles for decades, is probably the most divisive foreign policy expert ever to serve as U.N. ambassador. He met with Trump and White House chief of staff John Kelly in early March to discuss North Korea and Iran. He was spotted entering the West Wing earlier Thursday.

Bolton has served in the Republican administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and served as a Bush lawyer during the 2000 Florida recount.

A strong supporter of the Iraq war and an advocate for aggressive use of American power in foreign policy, Bolton was unable to win Senate confirmation after his nomination to the U.N. post alienated many Democrats and even some Republicans. He resigned after serving 17 months as a Bush “recess appointment,” which allowed him to hold the job on a temporary basis without Senate confirmation.

Tension between Trump and McMaster has grown increasingly public. Last month, Trump took issue with McMaster’s characterization of Russian meddling in the 2016 election after the national security adviser told the Munich Security Summit that interference was beyond dispute.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Trump tweeted Feb. 17, alluding to frequent GOP allegations of impropriety by Democrats and Hillary Clinton.

Tillerson’s exit also forecast trouble for McMaster, who had aligned himself with the embattled secretary of state in seeking to soften some of Trump’s most dramatic foreign policy impulses.

McMaster told The New York Times last year that Trump’s unorthodox approach “has moved a lot of us out of our comfort zone, me included.”

The military strategist, who joined the administration in February 2017, has struggled to navigate a tumultuous White House. Last summer, he was the target of a far-right attack campaign, as conservative groups and a website tied to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon targeted him as insufficiently supportive of Israel and not tough enough on Iran.

McMaster was brought in after Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was dismissed after less than a month in office. White House officials said he was ousted because he did not tell top advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence, about the full extent of his contacts with Russian officials.