Celebrations of Juche, the Marxist ideology the Kim dynasty has imposed on North Koreans, are typically accompanied by extravagant displays of military might.
Thus, it qualifies as news that this past weekend's two-hour parade in Pyongyang to commemorate the country’s 70th anniversary was bereft of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Korea watchers saw it as a conciliatory move toward the West, the United States in particular. That may be true.
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But here’s a discomforting fact: The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has turned up exactly zero evidence the country's dictator, Kim Jong-un, has halted or even slowed his efforts to develop atomic weapons.
So, what exactly is North Korea up to?
U.S. President Donald Trump offered his take via Twitter: “This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea. Thank you to Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other!”
It’s seldom wise to take Mr. Trump’s words at face value. Indeed, the signals would be easier to interpret if there wasn’t so much confusion over exactly what he and Mr. Kim agreed to at their summit meeting in Singapore last June.
In the intervening months, diplomatic efforts between the United States and North Korea have sputtered, apparently over the former’s desire to obtain specific assurances on denuclearization before going any further.
So, yes, it is good that Mr. Kim appears amenable to turning down the geopolitical thermostat. On Monday, he even sent a letter to Mr. Trump asking for a second summit.
But the fact remains that Pyongyang could conduct another missile test tomorrow morning, or next week – and may well do so. With leaders as unpredictable as Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, it is impossible to know what will come next.