Friday, May 04, 2018

Do We Have a Partner or a Predator?

Every once in a while I will hear somebody say that while North Korea cheated on the 1994 "Agreed Framework" deal, America on the other side didn't adhere to all the provisions either. So who are we to complain, they say. Wrong.

Consider that the deal was for North Korea not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for financial aid.

On the North Korean side, there was a single thing--don't pursue nukes. North Korea either was or was not pursuing nukes, although obviously the pace could vary.

On the other side there was a commitment to providing various forms of aid (and implicitly not destroying the nuclear facilities). If we failed in the aid, it could perhaps be a partial failure--perhaps deliberately or perhaps because stuff happens when delivering different things (including Congress being upset at the greater than anticipated costs).

Further, there can be honest disagreements about what constitutes compliance.

And if deliberate, perhaps our side was trying to send a message that maybe the North Koreans were being less clear than they should be about their compliance. Or maybe you can justifiably say our side was trying to get away with cheating on the deal in some particular area.

So our side could be 100% compliant. Or maybe just 90%. Is that gray partial failure the same as the black and white standard of either halting nuclear weapons work or pursuing nuclear work?

To say that North Korea justifiably violated the deal--becoming 0% compliant--because our side was deficient in some areas and so only complying at 90% (or 80% or 50% or whatever) is nonsense.

A good and reliable partner in a deal doesn't use your failure to comply 100% with a deal as an excuse for them to comply zero percent. That's not a partner--that's a predator waiting to pounce on any excuse to cheat.

Remember, North Korea did not come to our side and say "you aren't complying with the deal, so we are withdrawing." Oh sure, they threatened to withdraw if we didn't fully comply. That's a reasonable reaction. But North Korea didn't openly carry out that threat, which could have prompted new negotiations. No, North Korea stopped complying in secret, acting as if they were still in 100% compliance despite being unhappy with us.

Also, don't forget that there was a disparity in the ability to measure compliance. North Korea would know if they did not get goodies by simply noting what had not arrived. So we weren't trying to get away with anything in secret. We couldn't if we wanted to.

America on the other side had to judge whether we didn't see nuclear weapons programs in progress because they weren't there or because we simply didn't see what was there.

If our side wasn't fully compliant, North Korea should have publicly called us out and negotiated our full compliance. They should have called on China for diplomatic help.

They could have openly suspended compliance in an area, telling us that this would be resumed if their concerns were addressed.

But that is what you would expect from a negotiating partner committed to the deal rather than a foe committed to the objective of nuclear weapons with the deal just a means to that objective.

Is North Korea now a negotiating partner committed to the deal proposed of North Korean de-nuclearization?

Is China committed to that form of a deal?

Let's hope so. I completely believe America and our allies are on a path to striking North Korea's nuclear infrastructure; and that military action can only be derailed by a good deal before North Korea has nuclear weapons that can reach American soil.

Have a super sparkly day.