The deal points to the foundation of Washington's North Korea policy -- using aid to bribe the impoverished nation away from developing weapons of mass destruction. When congressional opposition slowed U.S. compliance with a 1994 agreement to provide extensive energy assistance in exchange for North Korea scrapping its weapons-grade nuclear energy program, North Korea began ostentatiously firing off test missiles and rebuilding the infrastructure for its nuclear weapons program. While Tuesday's deal puts the 1994 agreement back on track, it also looks a lot like a windfall to a GOP that has made national security its hot-button issue against Clinton.
The U.S. plans to send North Korea additional food aid in exchange for the right to inspect its nuclear sites -- and that's grist to the mill for Republicans who accuse President Clinton of being soft on security. "I worry that the North Koreans and other rogue nations will begin charging the United States for ensuring their compliance with their international agreements," said Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) after U.S. and Korean negotiators finalized the aid-for-access deal on Tuesday. And he has a point: The agreement followed Pyongyang's earlier demand for a $300 million payment in exchange for granting access to a suspected nuclear weapons site, and a series of missile tests designed to scare up Western aid.