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Senate Democrat Leader Criticizes Bush 'Ever-Changing' Policy on N. Korea

U.S. lawmakers appear divided over the Bush administration's approach toward North Korea.

Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota backs the Bush administration's decision to engage North Korea.

But Mr. Daschle criticized what he called ever-changing U.S. policy.

The administration is offering to revive a plan to give North Korea food and energy aid if Pyongyang abandons its pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.

But at a meeting with reporters Wednesday, Mr. Daschle noted the initiative comes after the administration insisted for months they would offer no such incentives.

"This flip-flopping, this change in position from one day to the next, sends a very conflicting and confusing message, not only to the North Koreans, but also to the international community," Mr. Daschle said.

He expressed frustration that the White House has not briefed Congress on policy toward North Korea. Mr. Daschle has invited New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, fresh from administration-approved meetings with North Korean diplomats, to brief lawmakers this week on the latest developments.

While Mr. Daschle supports engagement with North Korea, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, a member of the Armed Services Committee, believes the administration approach is wrong.

He made his comments on the CBS television program This Morning. "I have no problem with negotiations, but those negotiations should take place after the North Koreans abide by and enforce the agreement they made before," he said.

Mr. McCain introduced legislation Monday that would reimpose sanctions lifted in 1999. The bill also requires that any agreement with North Korea on ending its nuclear program include inspections provisions.

The legislation is opposed by the head of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana, who favors engagement with Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, on a visit to Capitol Hill, defended the U.S. approach to Pyongyang. "The president has made the correct decision with respect to North Korea. He is determined to follow a diplomatic path," he said.

Washington also has welcomed China's offer to host talks with U.S. and North Korean officials.