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Interview with Richard Bush


Tension has been mounting between North Korea and South Korea. The recent battle of patrol boats in disputed waters was the most recent incident. What might be motivating the conflict between these countries? We posed this and other questions to Richard Bush, director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies and a senior fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, here in Washington. Mr. Bush spoke with David Borgida on the VOA-TV program, “NewsLine.”

MR. BORGIDA:
Joining us now to discuss these developments, Richard Bush, from Washington's Brookings Institution. Mr. Bush, thank you so much for joining us.

MR. BUSH:
It's my pleasure.

MR. BORGIDA:
What do you make of this latest accusation by the North Korean side of two North [South] Korean vessels in their waters?

MR. BUSH:
I'm inclined to dismiss it as well. I think that North Korea is just trying to shift the blame for its own actions.

MR. BORGIDA:
Tell us a little more about it, and give us some of the background to the previous incident two weeks ago. What was your take on that one?

MR. BUSH:
Two weeks ago, on June 29th actually, a North Korean vessel fired on a South Korean vessel. Some South Korean sailors were killed. South Korean ships fired back and one North Korean vessel was seriously damaged and about 30 sailors were killed. The interesting question about this incident, at the outset, is what was behind it. Why did the North Koreans fire?

There are a couple of possibilities. One is that basically it occurred as the result of an accident, ships getting too close to each other. One other theory is that a North Korean senior military leader who didn't like the idea that the United States was about to hold talks with North Korea created an incident. Or the third possibility is that the firing was ordered from the very top of the North Korean system, by Kim Jong-Il.

MR. BORGIDA:
But in the final analysis, Mr. Bush, does this represent a serious escalation of tension between the two?

MR. BUSH:
I don't think so. There have been incidents like this before, and the United States and the Government of the Republic of Korea have a good bit of experience in handling them. It is unfortunate, though, because it will have an impact on the political relations among the countries involved, and we are liable to have a period of political tensions.

MR. BORGIDA:
And in the final minute or so we have left, Mr. Bush, what do you make of these corruption charges against Mr. Kim’s son?

MR. BUSH:
This is a common phenomenon in Korean politics, where the relatives of leaders are accused and, in some cases, convicted of corrupt activities. It occurred with the previous South Korean President. It looks like it's happening again.

MR. BORGIDA:
The views of Richard Bush, from Washington's Brookings Institution. Thanks so much for joining us, Mr. Bush. We appreciate your time.

MR. BUSH:
My pleasure.

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