North Korea's Big Ticket

  • Share
  • Read Later
Money'll buy you anything in North Korea, even access to the country's top-secret nuclear arms program. President Clinton Friday rejected the communist state's offer to let the U.S. inspect a suspected nuclear weapons facility for a $300 million fee. Despite Clinton's tough talk before his visit to South Korea, U.S. policy makers know the carrot is more effective than the stick in dealing with the famine-stricken North. "North Korea's defiance is about money, not politics," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "This is a cash-poor pariah state that produces primitive but deadly weapons of mass destruction and sells those to rogue states such as Libya and Iraq -- it's in our interests to remain engaged with them."

That message will be underlined by Clinton's South Korean hosts. "South Korea wants even greater engagement with the North because they believe that its poverty and isolation are extremely dangerous," says Dowell. And don't take the $300 million inspection fee too seriously. "North Korea believes that the only way to get money out of Washington is to scare them," says Dowell. A lesson that many a budget fight has taught Clinton too.