Are U.S. officials being played like the proverbial violin by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un? Let us hope not — but at the same time, let us not make the mistake of assuming there is a sincere, humane bone in Kim’s body.
Mike Pompeo, the CIA chief soon to become secretary of state, met secretly with Kim a few days ago, the White House confirmed on Wednesday. That explained President Donald Trump’s previous comment that the two governments were holding talks at “extremely high levels.”
Pompeo’s chat with Kim was intended to lay the groundwork for a highly anticipated face-to-face meeting between Trump and the North Korean leader. Trump tweeted on Wednesday that the Pompeo-Kim talk “went smoothly.” He added that “a good relationship was formed.”
Perhaps so, but the key to such a relationship is trust. Kim may have said everything Pompeo and Trump wanted to hear, but how much of it was sincere?
Americans — not to mention hundreds of millions of South Koreans, Japanese and others in Asia — are worried about Kim’s military buildup. It includes long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. North Korean technicians are working on miniaturizing atomic warheads so they can be delivered by the rockets.
Reversing that program is Trump’s goal.
But Kim, his father and his grandfather before him have a tradition of promising to stop rattling their sabers — even as they continue to sharpen them. Why should this situation be any different? Why would Kim want to tamper with a decades-old formula for success?
Thus far, Trump has not insisted on any show of good faith, such as suspending weapons development — by North Korea. Perhaps he should demand one as a precondition to any meeting with Kim.