Trust, but verify

The thoughtful among President Donald Trump’s severest critics have had to join with his supporters in giving him a thumbs-up for walking away from a summit meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un several days ago. Trump was right to refuse to be the newest chump in North Korea’s decades-long game of bait-and-switch.

Now, intelligence analysts are noting that North Korea’s reaction to Trump’s snub makes the hazards of playing along with Pyongyang more obvious than ever.

Kim and his father made a weapons buildup their overriding priority, even when it meant starving their own people to death so money could be spent on nuclear weapons and missiles. Trump hopes to use promises of U.S. economic development aid as a bargaining chip to persuade Kim to scrap his nuclear arsenal.

But during their meeting in Vietnam, Kim demanded economic concessions before embarking on “denuclearization.” Trump refused to cave in, though some of his predecessors, both Republican and Democrat, have made that mistake.

Prior to the Vietnam meeting, Kim had claimed he was acting in good faith. He told foreign journalists he had destroyed an important facility used to build and test long-range missiles.

It was a lie. Satellite images from March 6, only about a week after the Vietnam summit collapsed, show the missile site has returned to “normal operational status,” according to both governent and private intelligence analysts. Complex facilities such as that cannot be restored to full capacity if they have, as Kim had lied, been destroyed.

It appears Trump has accepted the old injunction by former President Ronald Reagan to “trust, but verify.” Good. In dealing with viciousness such as that ingrained in the Kim family, self-preservation demands that attitude.

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