This nation's immense generosity may yet be its undoing.
After giving 40,000 metric tons of agricultural products to North Korea earlier this year, the Bush administration announced plans on Christmas Eve to more than double its 2003 contribution.
Another 60,000 metric tons will be shipped immediately, with no strings attached, to help hungry North Koreans survive the harsh winter months.
A spokesman, citing World Food Program statistics, said the additional shipments were needed to meet the "pressing needs" of 4 million vulnerable North Koreans.
About 70,000 children are malnourished, he added, as are 30 percent of pregnant and nursing mothers.
The very next day, perhaps coincidentally, the North's government announced it had overspent its military budget to boost "offensive and defensive" strike capabilities. The official KCNA news agency didn't provide exact figures.
North Korea does have problems. According to the CIA's Web site, food shortages have persisted for a decade and since 1995, the only thing preventing mass starvation has been international food shipments. Yet, despite those pressing needs, the military consumes 34 percent of North Korea's gross domestic product.
In other words, international charity has allowed Pyongyang to take money it otherwise might have spent feeding its own people and use it to build nuclear weapons and the technology to drop them on U.S. cities.
A cynic might say Americans are subsidizing construction of the bombs that may one day rain down on them.
Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
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