Monday, April 16, 2007

Response to Joshua of One Free Korea:

Joshua commented to my post 'why the rush?' and asked why I think the shut-down would take a year? He also noted that "we can always place responsibility on our own expectation of timely compliance, lower the standard again, and preserve any deal at the small cost of its very significance". He also points out that both Chris Hill and the DPRK knew the deadline was feasible when they signed.

To which I might respond: As you noted in your post on the Tong Kim article (couldn't find your link sorry but had skimmed through it earlier) we can understand that it takes but a day to actually close a nuclear plant. In this context, 60 days may seem very generous indeed.

However, when I argue that 60 days is too short a time, I do not refer to the matter of flicking a switch. I am referring to the process of 'negotiation - agreement - implementation'. I also factor in time to counter and respond to the delaying tactics of the DPRK. I feel that it would be remiss not to do so because I think we can find no (or few) examples of when the DPRK has proceeded from negotiation to agreement to implementation in a prompt manner and in the spirit of good will. I said one year only as a ball park figure and would happily take counter responses that another time period, longer than 60 days, would be enough time.

With regard to lowering our expectations at the cost of the very significance of the deal, I agree with you in part. Having to adjust and lower expectations does undermine the significance of the initial deal made. But I would argue that perhaps our expectations should not have been so high in the first instance. Having low expectations that are meet might be preferable than having to lower expectations. Having to lower expectations, especially publicly, has the added negative aspect of making the US look weak and/or a patsy to the DPRK's demands.

And we need to ask ourselves: did Chris Hill and the DPRK both really know the deadline was feasible when they signed? I am first interested in why you refer to Chris Hill - a person and the DPRK - a nation? I guess that it means you think Chris Hill had far more room to negotiate the deal for the US than the counterpart in the DPRK? Rather than know the deal's timeline was feasible it could also mean that both sides were facing different pressures to get a deal; any deal. And that they both considered that making a deal that might be less than perfect (or indeed likely to fail) would be preferable to no deal at all. As I have stated earlier, I don't know why they settled on 60 days, it seems quite strange to me that the negotiators would put that kind of limit on themselves.

Sixty days does give a chance for things to move along. Even though the deadline hasn't been met we see signs that things will still proceed with the agreement regardless. Which brings me back to my first claim that rather than put deadlines that will make everyone look bad and undermine the significance of the agreement, why not just work in good faith to get the agreement implemented in whatever time it takes to do so? Surely an implemented agreement in the future is better than the alternatives? I suspect, Joshua, that you do not agree with me at all on that final point.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui