'Regrettable' Actions Raise Tensions Between Japan and South Korea
We're getting close to the anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific. And, nationalists in both Japan and South Korea are creating incidents. The first happened  in Seoul during a soccer game between the Japanese and South Korean national teams. Some spectators unveiled a banner attacking Japan for not making amends for its occupation of Korea before the war. That's brought a flurry of finger pointing from both countries. Here's Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.

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Reporter:
During the East Asian Cup final in Seoul, South Korean fans raised a banner that read, "A nation that forgets history has no future." The Japanese Soccer Association said the act violated a ban by world football governing body FIFA on political statements at matches. But South Korean officials say that Japanese fans had waved a rising sun flag. The flag was used by the Japanese military during World War II. they say the rising sun flag symbolizes past suffering of South Koreans, and calls to mind acts of the former Japanese imperial army. Japan's sports minister, Hakubun Shimomura, caused a further stir with his comments.

Hakubun Shimomura:
Such an incident shows the cultural level of a nation. I hope South Koreans will watch sports games in a fair manner.

Reporter:
South Korea's foreign ministry called the remark "rude" and "deeply regrettable."
 
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In California, a group of Korean Americans unveiled a statue to represent Korean women drafted as so-called "comfort women." That's a euphemism for tens of thousands, mostly Koreans, forced to work in brothels during the war to serve Japanese soldiers. Here's NHK again.

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Reporter:
About 500 people attended the unveiling in the city of Glendale, including one woman who claims to be a former comfort woman. The statue is a replica of one in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. It's the first such statue in the US West Coast. Korean-Americans have helped put up at least three on the East Coast.

Kim Bok-dong, former comfort woman:
Japan should quickly admit to its mistakes and apologize.

Reporter:
Some Japanese who live in the area and Japanese-Americans have complained about the statue, as has Japan's top government spokesman.

Yoshihide Suga, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary:
The government's stance regarding the issue of so-called comfort women is to avoid making it into a political and diplomatic issue. We cannot reconcile our way of thinking with the building of this statue.

Reporter:
The Japanese Consulate general in Los Angeles issued a statement. It said, the erection of the statue is "extremely regrettable."
 
 

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Dispatch from Washington: Vietnam's President Makes Rare US Trip
Truong Tan SangThe Obama administration came into office vowing to strengthen ties with Southeast Asia, and this week's rare visit by Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang signals greater cooperation ahead. President Obama met with President Truong at the White House today. Truong's trip to the United States is only the second visit by a Vietnamese president since the two countries resumed relations in 1995. 

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of attending a luncheon in Washington, DC hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry in honor of Vietnam's President. I came there not only as a guest, but as a journalist and an immigrant who fled Vietnam in 1975 with my family as Saigon was falling to the communists. 

As Secretary Kerry and President Truong stood next to each other, I was struck by the imagery. It was yet another step in reconciliation. Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who once fought against the communist regime represented by President Truong, was now his political ally. Kerry thanked the Vietnamese government for its help in finding the remains of US servicemen. "They voluntarily dug up their rice paddies to help us answer our questions," he said. 

"From conflict to friendship," said Kerry, "Today, when people hear the word Vietnam, they're able to think of a country, not a war." 

President Truong did not talk about the war. He spoke of the US as a valuable military partner in a region that feels threatened by the growing dominance of China. "Vietnam wants to be a responsible partner with the international community," he said. Vietnam has pledged to participate in UN peacekeeping operations in 2014. It's also seeking to boost economic relations. Trade between Vietnam and the US has grown to US$26 billion since a trade deal was signed in 2001. 

President Truong barely touched on the thorny issue of human rights, saying simply "Vietnam has been continually making progress on human rights." 

Thuy Vu and Truong Tan SangThose who feel Vietnam has not done enough on the issue have heavily criticized his visit. According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is jailing a growing number of dissidents, bloggers and religious leaders for crimes such as "conducting propaganda" and "disrupting the unity of the state." The visit leaves a bitter taste for many Vietnamese Americans who have lingering resentment over losing their homeland to a regime that they view as abusive.

For me, it's sometimes a challenge to report on Vietnamese issues because I straddle two worlds -- journalism and the Vietnamese American community. As an immigrant, many Vietnamese Americans expect me to side with them in my reporting. I have to remind them that my role as a journalist is to be fair, not to advocate. Sometimes I win them over.  Other times I don't. As a Vietnamese American, I will always face expectations from my own community that aren't leveled at other journalists.

I understand their pain. Communists took my grandfather away for being a landowner. My uncle fought against communist forces during the Vietnam war. My brother was jailed by the communist regime. It is part of the Vietnamese American experience: struggle, heartache, survival. This is our story. 

My duty as a journalist, though, is to tell all stories with balance and insight. It's my own journey of reconciliation between my professional obligations and perceptions in the Vietnamese American community. That journey is still unfinished.
 
 

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LinkAsia Behind the Scenes: Looking Back on 100 Episodes

 
 

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North Korea Remains Defiant After New Sanctions Imposed
(LinkAsia: January 25, 2012)
Thuy Vu:
North Korea has reacted bitterly to a UN resolution that condemned the North's rocket launch last month and imposes new sanctions. Pyongyang said the launch was to send up a communications satellite. The US and most other countries said it was designed to test a long-range missile and was part of North Korea's goal of acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

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NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: January 23, 2013

Reporter:
Security Council members passed their resolution unanimously. It expands existing sanctions, adding four individuals and six organizations, including the space agency. Assets will be frozen, and individuals will also face a travel ban.

Officials in Pyongyang are showing defiance. Foreign Ministry representatives issued a statement, condemning the resolution as an attempt to deprive North Korea of its right to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes. The document says it is now clear the US has a policy of hostility toward North Korea. As a result, it says that the North will no longer recognize the joint statement from the Six Party Talks in 2005. That includes plans for the country to abandon all nuclear weapons and programs.

The statement goes on to say North Korean authorities will take practical steps to strengthen their defensive military power to counter pressure from US sanctions. It says that includes nuclear deterrence. The wording suggests North Korean officials could conduct a third nuclear test. They carried out one in 2006, and one in 2009.
 
 

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Japan Honors Citizens Killed in Algeria Hostage Crisis
(LinkAsia: January 25, 2012)
Thuy Vu:
Japan was shocked to learn that at least nine of its nationals were killed in Algeria last week. They died during a battle between the Algerian army and Islamist militants at a gas factory in the Sahara desert. Thirty-nine foreigners and dozens of Algerians died after the militants took over the gas plant and the army stormed it. With a tribute to two of the Japanese victims here's NHK.

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NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: January 23, 2013

Reporter:
Rokuro Fuchida ran building sites around the world. He was 64 years old and retired. Then his former bosses asked him to lead one more project in Algeria. He wrote about it on Facebook before he left: "I am working all over the world to see the twinkling star-lit sky. Next I will see the stars from the desert in Algeria." His brother, Mitsunobu, heard about the hostage taking, then waited, day after day for a call from Rokuro. It never came.

Mitsunobu Fuchida, Brother:
Rokuro was kind, and a good brother. I just want to hug him. That's the only thing I want
to do.

Reporter:
Fumihiro Ito worked near Fuchida in Algeria. He had spent years developing energy resources. He led a project to develop gas fields in Sahara desert. Ito came from Minamisanriku, a town devastated in the tsunami two years ago. Now, his 82-year-old mother lives alone in temporary housing. She says, she has no mementos to remember her son. He and his former classmates were planning to get together next month to celebrate their 60th birthdays.

Takaaki Yokuyama, Former Classmate:
Ito said he would join the party, but would not stay overnight, because he wanted to visit his mother and stay with her. I want the news to be a mistake. I still think Ito will show up at the party.

Reporter:
Yokoyama was looking forward to seeing his old friend. Instead, he and the others will take a moment to remember.
 
 

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