Trust comes first in nuke talks

Let us hope President Donald Trump agrees with his predecessor Ronald Reagan’s policy in dealing with promises of disarmament: “Trust, but verify.”

To that, Trump ought to add, “and quickly.”

In pursuit of the worthy goal of lessening the threat to peace posed by North Korea, Trump is meeting with that nation’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, this week in Hanoi.

The very setting ought to serve as a demonstration to Kim of the benefits of a peaceful relationship with the United States. After many years of bloody conflict with this country, Vietnam’s leaders adopted a let-bygones-be-bygones policy. Now, in part because of trade with America, Vietnam has begun to prosper, even under what officially remains a communist regime.

That could happen to North Korea, too, Trump has said. Merely stop the aggressiveness, abandon nuclear weapons, and watch the money start rolling in.

That would be a godsend to the people of North Korea. Unfortunately, Kim has demonstrated to date that he has no more concern for them than did his father and grandfather. Perhaps he has seen some sort of light.

Or perhaps not. More likely, unfortunately, Kim is playing the same old game that kept his father in power: making promises of peaceful behavior that he had no intention of keeping.

Kim insists he is sincere. Trump seems to believe him. But other presidents, both Democrat and Republican, trusted North Korean officials to keep their word in the past. We see how that worked out in North Korean videos of nuclear bomb and long-range missile tests.

No such tests have been conducted for many months. But, at the same time, there has been little or no evidence North Korea is scrapping its nuclear weapons program.

Unless that proof of sincerity is provided, Trump will have no reason to believe his groundbreaking initiative serves any purpose but to give Kim more time to develop and build weapons of mass destruction capable of devastating the United States.

That, of course, would be unacceptable.