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Interview with Paul Chamberlin, Korea-U.S. Consulting, Inc. - 2003-05-15


South Korean President Roh recently met with U.S. President Bush to seek a peaceful solution to the situation with North Korea. VOA’s David Borgida speaks with Paul Chamberlin, President of Korea-U.S. Consulting, Inc. about the talks.

MR. BORGIDA
And now joining us, Paul Chamberlin, President of Korea-U.S. Consulting, Inc., and an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington. So, Mr. Chamberlin, if you read the tea leaves and read through the diplomatic language after these kinds of meetings, what's your conclusion about how these talks went?

MR. CHAMBERLIN
This was an exceptionally useful, productive session between not only President Bush and President Roh, but between President Roh and other members of the senior government officials, Vice President Cheney and others. It was a very positive meeting.

MR. BORGIDA
And how and why? What was so positive about it?

MR. CHAMBERLIN
Well, Americans were concerned about President Roh. There is a lot of misinformation, that he was anti-American, which is not the case, but that was floating around. President Roh went a long way towards easing those concerns. And then, on the Korean side, there was quite a lot of concerns about what they saw to be an exceptionally aggressive program towards North Korea that would not be productive and not be fruitful. And what happened during these meetings, primarily yesterday, is the two countries, at the head of state level, came to an understanding of where the other is coming from.

MR. BORGIDA
You're focusing on the bilateral front, and that's, I'm sure, an important part of this meeting. But one of the issues that has gotten an awful lot of attention in official Washington is the North Korean side. They're agreeing that it's a problem but, beyond that, is there any more that they did or can do?

MR. CHAMBERLIN
From the South Korean perspective, the principal gain from this was a clear affirmation by President Bush that the United States is going to seek a peaceful solution to the problem. The South Koreans are very worried about a war breaking out, because millions of their citizens are going to die in short order. The Koreans believe that negotiation and peaceful mechanisms will be successful in inducing North Korea to change its behavior. North Korea, compared to Iraq, is quite a different case. North Korea has been calling for negotiations from the very beginning. In fact, there are some people who think it has exacerbated the problem in order to get negotiations with the United States.

Negotiating with North Korea is a tough proposition, and doing it requires a lot of skill and a lot of patience. The Bush administration clearly doesn't want to waste its time going to meetings; it seems to me it wants to enter into meetings that can yield something positive and be productive for all the concerned parties. The problem has been all of the concerned parties don't share the same vision of how to proceed, China being one of the big ones, because it's a primary supplier to North Korea.

MR. BORGIDA
And how important is China in this entire diplomatic web here?

MR. CHAMBERLIN
China is exceptionally important. As long as it continues to supply North Korea and as long as it feels the impact of a North Korean collapse that will send refugees into their society and create an unstable security environment, they're going to proceed in a very cautious way. And the challenge is to bring them in line with the South Koreans and the Japanese to persuade the North Koreans that adhering to a nuclear program is not in their best interest, and giving it up can be very beneficial for them.

MR. BORGIDA
This may be a reach, but China is awfully busy these days dealing with the SARS crisis. I wonder, is there at all any impact on what China is doing on that front and its diplomatic ability to keep a close watch over the North Korean crisis?

MR. CHAMBERLIN
Well, China, like other states, can manage more than one event at a time.

MR. BORGIDA
I should have expected that answer for that question. That's true.

(Laughter.)

MR. BORGIDA
Any other thoughts, as we take our last 30 seconds or so, on the future of this crisis, Mr. Chamberlin?

MR. CHAMBERLIN
I'm very optimistic. I really am. The two leaders are in sync. And if they are in sync, I'm confident that they can proceed and work a solution.

MR. BORGIDA
Well, there's an encouraging note, unlike the one we heard in our previous interview about the U.S.-Russian relationship. I suppose it's a fair point.

Thanks so much, Paul Chamberlin, President of Korea-U.S. Consulting, Inc., and an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington. Thanks for being with us.

MR. CHAMBERLIN
Thank you very much.

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