The framing in this New York Times article on North Korean missile production is a bit, shall we say, deceptive:
North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images, a network long known to American intelligence agencies but left undiscussed as President Trump claims to have neutralized the North’s nuclear threat.
The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception [bold mine-DL]: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site — a step it began, then halted — while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads.
It is wrong to say that North Korea is being deceptive by continuing to develop the missile program that it has been developing for years. There is no agreement that prohibits them from doing what they are doing, and so they can’t be deceiving anyone by carrying on with their missile development. It is to be expected that North Korea would continue to develop and build missiles when their government has never said that it would not do so.
If anyone has attempted a “great deception” over the last six months, it is the administration officials that have pretended that North Korea agreed to disarm at Singapore. If the existence of these sites “contradicts Mr. Trump’s assertion that his landmark diplomacy is leading to the elimination of a nuclear and missile program,” the fault lies entirely with Trump. He is the one making false claims of progress in pursuing the administration’s unrealistic goals, and it is hardly the first time that reality has not lined up with the president’s statements. When faced with the evidence of these sites, the administration continues to promote the fiction that North Korea has agreed to disarm:
A State Department spokesman responded to the findings with a written statement suggesting that the government believed the sites must be dismantled: “President Trump has made clear that should Chairman Kim follow through on his commitments, including complete denuclearization and the elimination of ballistic missile programs, a much brighter future lies ahead for North Korea and its people.”
The administration has been overselling the results of its talks with North Korea, and they have been putting words in Kim’s mouth for months. Only the president’s cheerleaders have been gullible enough to take these claims seriously. North Korea has certainly never agreed to the elimination of all of its ballistic missile programs, and when our government tells us that North Korea has done this they are simply making it up and hoping no one will notice.
Presenting North Korean behavior as a “deception” implies that they have made commitments that they are secretly violating, but there have been so definite, specific commitments made as part of any agreement with the U.S. or South Korea. Even if North Korea is prepared to agree to some limits on or reductions of its arsenal, it makes sense that they would keep building up that arsenal to give them more bargaining chips. However, as long as the administration remains wedded to the fantasy that North Korea has already agreed to give up its nuclear weapons and missiles, there won’t be any progress on more modest, achievable goals.