NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: It is imperative to get to the ‘next step’ in nuclear negotiations

Reports that North Korea has increased its production of enriched uranium at secret sites after June 12 negotiations between President Trump and Kim Jong-un to denuclearize the country should not be a surprise.

We wrote here in April before the summit meeting in Singapore was even planned that we had little confidence Kim could be trusted and any “agreement” with the North Korean leader should be taken with a grain of salt.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that anonymous U.S. intelligence officials say North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile. It reported that evidence collected since the summit in Singapore indicates Kim’s intentions to deceive the U.S. about the number of its nuclear warheads and the existence of secret facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs.

While that news, confirmed by an unnamed U.S. official, would seem to indicate the negotiations in Singapore last month were a failure, the next step in the denuclearization process has apparently been forming in spite of North Korea’s obvious lack of compliance.

One problem with the “deal” that the president said he brokered with Kim is that Washington and Pyongyang have yet to negotiate any terms under which North Korea would dismantle its nuclear program.

Sunday National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will soon have discussions with North Korea on setting up such a process. Reports say there are currently discussions going on about a Pompeo trip to North Korea next week, although it has not been confirmed.

News reports indicate Bolton’s comments on CBS’ “Face the Nation” seem to be the first time the Trump administration has publicly suggested a timeline for the so-called commitment Kim made with President Trump.

The day after the summit with Kim, Trump tweeted, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Saturday, the president was asked during a Fox Business broadcast whether he still trusted Kim after the revelations in the Washington Post report.

“I made a deal with him, I shook hands with him, I really believe he means it,” Trump said. “Now, is it possible? Have I been in deals, have you been in things where, people didn’t work out? It’s possible.”

In our editorial in April we also said, in spite of doubts about Pyongyang’s sincerity, negotiations were a good thing at a time when the North Korean nuclear threat is of great concern. Trump went where no president has gone before in actually meeting with the North Korean leader to try to strike a deal to completely denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

And while plans to implement a measured process for that to happen are the essential next step, it is also imperative that the U.S. have plans for what to do if and when Kim reneges on whatever agreement he makes.

It’s not enough under the potential threat of nuclear attacks by a rogue nation to just say, “Oh, well. We tried.”

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