To what shall North Korea's latest pronouncement to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for certain "security" guarantees be compared?
Choose from one of the following familiar promises: Of course I'll respect you in the morning; I promise to pay you back; I'm from the government and I'm here to help. There are more but you get the idea.
It has always been this way with North Korea. It reaches an agreement and then breaks it when it suits, only to use the period when the agreement is in force to violate it and then create a false pretext to nullify it, all the while continuing to build a nuclear arsenal. North Korea then reaches another agreement, which, again, it violates and the cycle continues.
If North Korea were applying for a loan, no bank would lend it a dime because of its deplorable credit rating, yet the West, which often appears to bank more on hope than reality, continues to dole out food and other aid hoping good intentions change Pyongyang's behavior.
The Arms Control Association (ACA), "a national nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies," has compiled a list of North Korea's broken promises and behavior that includes selling missile and nuclear technology to Iran and other enemies of the United States. The list runs 37 pages.
Here's just one of the items posted to ACA's website: "In 1994, faced with North Korea's announced intent to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires non-nuclear weapon states to forswear the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. Under this agreement, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid.
"Following the collapse of this agreement in 2002, North Korea claimed that it had withdrawn from the NPT in January 2003 and once again began operating its nuclear facilities."
The pattern repeated again in 2003, the ACA found, during the Six-Party Talks involving the U.S., North Korea, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. After two years of stalemate and one crisis after another, North Korea pledged in 2005 to abandon "all nuclear weapons and existing weapons programs" and promised to return to the NPT agreement.
By 2009, after what by then had become familiar disagreements over inspections leading to verification that North Korea was living up to its promises, Pyongyang violated the 2005 agreement by launching missiles and vowing never to return to talks, a pledge it repeated until this latest reported promise to hold new talks about abandoning its nuclear weapons.
Last November, President Trump properly returned North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Pyongyang had been there before, but was removed from the list in 2008.
Not that it had stopped sponsoring terrorism, but the West does these sorts of things from time to time, falsely believing that what free people do affects the behavior of tyrants and dictators.
Apparently, we have forgotten that communists lie as a matter of policy (and they aren't the only ones, as we have seen with Islamic fundamentalist regimes).
Assuming North Korea is now serious about talks following Kim Jong-un's promise to never abandon his nukes (that promise is more credible), what is likely to come of it?
If history proves anything -- and it does -- the answer is nothing that will benefit South Korea, the rest of Asia and most especially the United States. But it will make us feel good for "trying."
Kim knows this.
It's probably why he will lead us down this dark road again, only to get mugged at the end of it.
Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.