Hope in North Korea

The niceties of diplomacy dictate that when world leaders meet, they smile, shake hands, even trade a joke or two. Kind words and gestures of trust are virtually mandatory.

So it was this week in Singapore, when President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met. Before departing, they agreed they had laid down a framework for Pyongyang to eliminate its nuclear weapons program and stockpiles.

More smiles and handshakes followed.

Let us hope Trump’s opinion of Kim is much the same as before the two met.

What happened in Singapore truly was historic. It was the first time in history a sitting U.S. president has met a North Korean dictator for in-person talks. The very fact Trump and Kim did meet is significant.

But the question now is whether Kim has changed the lyrics to the old North Korean song, or is merely singing them to a different tune. Every thoughtful, informed person knows the words: Tell the Americans what they want to hear, make promises you don’t intend to keep, benefit from U.S. economic concessions – and continue to build up your arsenal.

It has happened several times during the past few decades.

This time, then, Trump should insist on proof Kim is keeping his word. That means concrete, hard evidence, not wishful acceptance of promises.

Kim is well aware that if he chooses to go back to the path of deception, he stands a reasonable chance of prevailing in the court of public opinion. Enough Americans are fond of singing, “Give peace a chance” for North Korea to accuse Trump of scuttling the Singapore agreeement.

But the fact is that there would have been no meeting and no agreement had the president not taken a hard line toward Kim. It is Trump, then, who is giving peace a chance.

Will Kim follow through? That remains to be seen. Let us hope so.