Letting Kim Know We Are Skeptical
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un may have been jubilant about his deal with President Donald Trump, reached earlier this summer during their meeting in Singapore.
Kim may have believed that, in exchange for mere promises, he had gained Trump’s unqualified trust.
That would have fit nicely into the North Korean strategy, pursued under Kim, his father and his grandfather. It has been to claim peaceful intentions, while building up Pyongyang’s arsenal relentlessly.
The result, of course, has been a North Korea with both nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. That is an intolerable combination.
At Singapore, Kim pledged to pursue a policy of “denuclearization.” In return, Trump — perhaps too optimistically — said he had achieved something his predecessors did not.
Trump backed away from his strident rhetoric toward Kim. Other actions, such as canceling a joint U.S.-South Korean military exercise, were ordered to lessen tensions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began engaging in personal negotiations with Kim and his representatives.
For his part, Kim ordered destruction of an old missile research site.
But then, troubling reports began to surface. U.S. intelligence agencies reported Pyongyang was continuing work on missiles and nuclear devices.
Now, Trump has told Pompeo to cancel a planned trip to North Korea. Kim has not made acceptable progress on denuclearization, the president explained.
Trump is demonstrating what some of his predecessors did not: impatience.
No one wants a war with North Korea. But allowing Kim to continue his strategy of baiting and switching would do nothing to avert conflict. Trump should continue to use a “trust but verify” strategy against the Kim regime.