National security adviser John Bolton headed to London Sunday to start a two-day trip of meeting key players in the new government, marking the highest ranking US official to visit the United Kingdom since Boris Johnson became prime minister.
As President Donald Trump’s administration predicts the US and the UK will be more in sync under Johnson – who has been referred to as the UK’s Trump – than the countries were under former Prime Minister Theresa May, Bolton will explicitly articulate Trump administration policies and identify areas where the nations can work together, particularly when it comes to being tough on Iran and Huawei, a senior administration official explained to reporters traveling with Bolton.
On Monday, Bolton will meet with UK Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill, Johnson’s senior adviser Edward Lister, new Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid and Bernard Jenkin, who is a conservative member of the UK Parliament.
On the itinerary for Tuesday: Bolton meets with Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, Secretary for Exiting the European Union Steven Barclay, Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Dutchy of Lancaster, MP Bill Cash and Iain Duncan Smith, a former UK government official.
As of now, Bolton will not meet with Johnson – who was named the UK’s new leader on July 23 once May was forced into resigning after losing the support of her Cabinet, many of whom were fed up with her inability to secure the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Bolton has not set out on the trip looking to return to Washington on Wednesday with a specific deliverable, but, according to the official, the experienced bureaucrat will dive into discussions that cover a broad spectrum of issues including Iran, Brexit, trade, Huawei/5G, China, the Middle East broadly and non-proliferation.
Bolton will articulate US opposition to Huawei – the Trump administration views it as an arm of the Chinese government used to tap into communications – and press the the UK to commit to having absolutely no Huawei equipment in the UK telecommunications system. His visit comes before a decision has been made by the new government on this issue.
The US would also like the UK’s backing in declaring the Iran nuclear deal dead, the official explained, though the official wouldn’t explicitly say if Bolton will ask the UK to formally exit the deal with Tehran.
While many decisions that impact the US-UK relationship won’t be made in the near term as the UK maintains focus on Brexit, the official said that Iran could require action more quickly.
The UK has committed to joining Operation Sentinel, the mission to protect maritime security in the Persian Gulf. The official said Bolton will discuss how to get things moving in that space – but predicted that it’ll take a couple of weeks before the effort fully comes together.
When it comes to trade, Bolton is set to explore the possibilities of a bilateral trade agreement amid the the looming Brexit deadline in October.
While the details of any deal, and how quickly it can be reached, will be worked out by US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Truss, this visit will include some exploration of options such as wrapping key sectors like finance into bilateral agreements that can be reached more quickly.