World Politics

Trump's national security advisor says tape of Khashoggi killing doesn't implicate the Saudi crown prince

Key Points
  • Speaking to reporters in Singapore, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton spoke about the U.S.-Saudi relationship, Pyongyang and the South China Sea.
  • The U.S. is closely following Riyadh's investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, he said.
  • On North Korea, Bolton said President Trump was prepared to have a second summit with Kim Jong Un.
National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at the White House, April 9, 2018.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton on Tuesday suggested that an audio tape of Jamal Khashoggi's murder may not implicate Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"In the assessment of those who have listened to it," the recording does not directly implicate bin Salman, Bolton said, adding that he had not listened to the tape himself.

The former U.S Ambassador to the United Nations spoke to reporters in Singapore, where he and Vice President Mike Pence are attending the ASEAN-U.S. Summit and the East Asia Summit.

The United States is not the only country holding a copy of the tape, and other nations' intelligence services are scrutinizing the recording on their own. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country sent audio that allegedly captures the killing of the Washington Post journalist Khashoggi to Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on Monday that Canada's intelligence agencies listened to the Khashoggi tape.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident, was killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul last month. Erdogan has said the assassination was ordered by the "highest levels" of Saudi government.

Riyadh has denied that claim, but it has changed its story about the murder more than once, with the country's public prosecutor in late October called the killing "premeditated."

U.S. President Donald Trump expects the truth to come out eventually, Bolton claimed. Saudi Arabian officials are still investigating the case, and the U.S. will follow that very closely, Bolton added.

Trump has previously expressed his desire to protect the U.S.-Saudi relationship, especially its commercial relationship, even as his administration comes under severe pressure to punish oil-rich Kingdom. Last month, Washington revoked visas for several Saudis implicated in Khashoggi's killing and barred others from obtaining documents for U.S. travel.

Thoughts on North Korea and South China Sea

On North Korea, Bolton said President Trump was prepared to have a second summit with Kim Jong Un but didn't provide any details on timing or location.

Pyongyang in June said it agreed to a vague deal to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the Trump administration has made much of its supposed success in making that agreement. But North Korea hasn't stopped working on its ballistic missile program, NBC News, citing U.S. officials, reported on Tuesday.

What is ASEAN?

Bolton also discussed the South China Sea, a massive, international commercial waterway that China claims as its own despite nearly unanimous diplomatic opinion to the contrary. The U.S. Navy has carried out "freedom of navigation operations" in the area, sending vessels through the waters and angering the Chinese.

Bolton said that Washington was committed to the region's security.

Aside from increased naval patrols, the United States is also prepared to build up its Navy, Bolton continued. China's navy dwarfs the naval resources of Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries that have their own claims on the South China Sea.

"Countries of Southeast Asia don't want to be dominated by any external actor," Bolton said, "and we support that."