The joint declaration approved at the end of the summit was aspirational, a start; North Korea’s concrete actions so far are showy and skimpy. Genuine progress toward eliminating the nuclear threat will require long negotiations culminating in an accord with ironclad verification, given North Korea’s subterfuge and deception in the past. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo heads for talks this week in Pyongyang and other Asian capitals, it appears that process has barely begun.
In recent days, two useful reminders have come to the fore of how hard this will be and how wrong Mr. Trump is to take a victory lap too soon.
The first is the disclosure of a fresh assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency that North Korea intends to deceive the United States about the true scope of its nuclear warhead and missile program, as well as the facilities to manufacture fissile material. The assessment reportedly concludes that North Korea believes it can hide some of its most sensitive activities, such as a second, underground uranium enrichment factory.
The Post’s Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick reported over the weekend that the United States has in recent years improved its intelligence collection in North Korea, and officials believe that more than one hidden site exists. This is precisely the kind of pitfall that awaits Mr. Trump if he does not demand a complete declaration of what North Korea has built at the start of negotiations. We would not be surprised if the leak of this classified report were an attempt by those in the know to deter Mr. Trump from declaring mission accomplished or offering more one-sided concessions.
The second development is the appearance of satellite imagery suggesting that North Korea is expanding an important factory for producing solid-fuel motors for its nuclear-armed missiles. Solid-fuel engines require little time to prepare for launch and have a smaller fleet of support vehicles, so they are harder to spot on the move. According to a report from experts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, the images show the engine factory expansion is taking place at the Chemical Material Institute in Hamhung. What does this say about Mr. Kim’s thinking?
The key questions about an adversary always come down to capabilities and intentions. Mr. Kim’s capabilities, if hidden, must be exposed, and his intentions, if devious, must be seen clearly. Mr. Trump ought to wake up to the fact that he is at the beginning of the beginning of this process, not the end. Here’s an idea with a nice ring: Distrust, and verify.