Beware of North Korea's nuclear and missile pledge -- Kim's talk is cheap, it's his actions that count

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s surprise announcement that his nation will suspend tests of nuclear weapons and missiles and close its nuclear testing site sounds like a momentous victory for the U.S. It’s not – at least, not yet.

Kim’s announcement Saturday (local time) may simply be a ploy to ensure President Trump meets with Kim in the coming weeks, conferring international prestige on the dictator and paving the way for the lifting of international economic sanctions crippling his impoverished nation.

Before we start singing “Give Peace a Chance” and celebrating a victory by the Trump administration for forcing Kim to back down, let’s pause. Remember that Kim simply made a statement – and he has a long record of lying and breaking promises on the nuclear issue and other issues.

While Kim’s conciliatory words are certainly welcome, there’s no way of knowing whether he will actually do what he claims.

Before we start singing “Give Peace a Chance” and celebrating a victory by the Trump administration for forcing Kim to back down, let’s pause. Remember that Kim simply made a statement – and he has a long record of lying and breaking promises on the nuclear issue and other issues.

At this point, Kim has given away absolutely nothing. All he has to do is give an order and North Korea can resume testing nuclear weapons and missiles again.

And of critical importance, Kim gave no indication he plans to destroy his small but devastating nuclear arsenal and missiles that he has already developed – or his large conventional armed forces and armaments. He already has the ability to kill millions of people with the nuclear weapons and missiles that he has on hand, without developing any new ones.

Kim may simply be trying to show signs that he is willing to make major concessions to have better relations with the United States, South Korea and Japan, along with the international community. He has plenty of reasons to be on his best behavior over the next few weeks, showing that he can be reasonable, rational and open to a long-term détente.

The North Korean leader will meet on Friday in the week ahead with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. And plans are underway for the first-ever meeting between U.S. and North Korean leaders in coming weeks.

Remember the cold hard reality of what we witnessed back in 2017. Kim might not need to conduct many more missile or nuclear tests to know he can hit targets in the U.S. homeland.

Kim tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) – part of a sprint of over 20 missile tests last year – that showed North Korea had the range and technological prowess to strike as far as New York City and even Washington, D.C.

In September, Kim also tested a hydrogen bomb – the most destructive of all nuclear weapons. One of these bombs could wipe any U.S. city off the map, with horrific casualties.

So Kim is now very close to having a fully capable, albeit tiny, nuclear force with global reach. All that is needed is the ability for his warheads to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land on target.

And we know, at least according to one report, that Kim has at least a crude capability to see his warheads survive the massive heat and wind shears to rain down atomic terror on his enemies.

So what does this all mean?

Since Kim last tested an ICBM – or any missile – in November, he has had months of lab research time to perfect even more of his nuclear weapons arsenal and missiles.

Kim may have gambled that announcing a closure of his atomic testing grounds and suspending missile and nuclear weapons tests will gain him tremendous international goodwill, a meeting with the U.S. president – and result in him losing nothing.

Kim could easily start to test missiles at any time he wishes. And he doesn’t need missiles flying all throughout Northeast Asia to perfect the targeting, guidance, command and control and heatshield technology of his nuclear delivery systems in small ways.

Perfecting all these things could have very big results months or years down the line if Kim decides to change his mind and begin missile testing again.

The same goes for nuclear weapons. Just because Kim closes his nuclear testing area doesn’t mean he can’t open it back up again. The testing site – a series of carefully crafted deep underground tunnels that took time to construct – is not a sophisticated lab. So let’s not get carried away and be so impressed.

Again, as I noted just recently in a Fox News Opinion piece, what Kim is likely doing is setting the craftiest of traps – one designed to suck the Trump administration into months or years of negotiations.

All the while, Kim’s scientists are working to perfect his deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction – not just nuclear weapons, but also chemical and likely biological weapons as well.

The Trump administration must move past Kim’s dramatic announcement that was designed to pull at our emotions and make us hopeful that peace is at hand.

We must demand deeds, because as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Particularly in Kim’s case.

For example, the Trump administration should insist on a roadmap whereby Kim lays out how he will get rid of his nuclear weapons for good – before any U.S.-North Korea summit.

Any agreement with the North should be contingent on international inspectors having 24-hour access to all parts of North Korea – with no site off limits and no notification of access. If inspectors are not allowed to go anywhere, anytime in North Korea without notice there is no real basis for a deal.

Also, any lifting of the international maximum pressure campaign on North Korea must be contingent on Kim making measured and definable progress on giving up his nukes. He must give verifiable proof that he is getting rid of his atomic arsenal to see economic sanctions lifted.

While I am hopeful that Kim could really be sincere in giving up his nukes, public declarations and easily reversed measures are meaningless. I can only hope the Trump administration sees it the same way.

Harry J. Kazianis (@grecianformula) is director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, founded by former President Richard M. Nixon. Click here, for more on Mr. Kazianis.