As we have said before, we believe President Trump deserves credit for consequential efforts, including two summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, aimed at improving relations between the United States and North Korea and producing stability on the Korean peninsula.

However, as we also have said before, broken North Korea promises and Kim's overall record demand a vigilant approach by President Trump and his administration.

To this end, we found President Trump's Monday shrug of the shoulders over North Korea's ballistic missile tests earlier this month troubling.


* The missile tests were the first conducted by North Korea since 2017.

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* John Bolton, President Trump's national security advisor, said the tests violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.

* President Trump's comments - including "My people think it could have been a violation. I view it differently." and "It doesn't matter." - came during a visit to Japan, an ally Kim once threatened to make "disappear" and whose president, Shinzo Abe, criticized this month's tests.

An unseemly embrace of a Kim insult directed at former Vice President Joe Biden - "Kim Jong-un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-IQ individual, he probably is based on his record. I think I agree with him on that." - compounded the strangeness of President Trump's performance at his joint news conference with Abe in Tokyo earlier this week.

In his zeal to build a positive relationship with him, President Trump risks losing appreciation of who Kim is: An unpredictable dictator who leads a repressive, brutal regime and hasn't earned the benefit of the doubt.

It's in the interests of the U.S. and its friends, like Japan and South Korea, for President Trump to talk to Kim, but he should keep his eyes wide open and keep Kim at a comfortable arm's length when he does.

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