U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday he had no reservations or concerns about President Donald Trump’s incoming national security adviser John Bolton, a hawk who has advocated using military force against North Korea and Iran, CNBC informed.
Mattis said he would meet Bolton for the first time later this week at the Pentagon, amid speculation the two men will clash on a host of major national issues.
“We’re going to sit down together (this week), and I look forward to working with him. No reservations. No concerns at all,” Mattis said, adding he had never met Bolton before.
Trump has shaken up his core national security team in the past two weeks, replacing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and firing Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state. The moves within a small group of just a handful of advisers have stoked speculation that Mattis could be increasingly isolated.
Mattis had forged a close relationship with both McMaster and Tillerson as he successfully advocated to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan and strengthen ties with NATO, despite Trump’s skepticism about both the 16-year-old war and the trans-Atlantic alliance supporting it.
Warning about the horrors of a war on the Korean Peninsula, Mattis has also promoted a diplomatically led strategy to pressure North Korea to negotiate over efforts to build a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States.
After Trump in January announced plans to talk with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Mattis was so concerned he might say something to upset the process that the defense secretary opted to stop making any substantive public remarks about North Korea at all.
On the other hand, Bolton, a 69-year-old Fox News analyst and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has called for regime change in North Korea in the past and has previously been rejected as a negotiating partner by Pyongyang.