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From Beijng to Tokyo, from Seoul to New Delhi, LinkAsia takes viewers into media about Asia – from Asia – offering unfiltered insight into one of the most diverse, fast-paced regions of the globe.

 

The LinkAsia blog features in-depth analysis from expert contributors and LinkAsia producers, as well as transcripts from NHK Japan reports.

 

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LinkAsia News Brief

Former Japanese PM Seeks to Mend Ties with South Korea

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama has stepped front and center into the argument over history between his country and South Korea. He is famous for the so-called ‘Murayama statement’ in 1995 apologizing for Imperial Japan’s aggression in the first half of the 20th century, he said, "Japan…through its colonial rule and digression caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly those of Asian nations," he further went on to say "[I] express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and submit my heartfelt apology."


During a recent visit to Seoul, Murayama said all Japanese prime ministers are bound by the apology he made back in 1995.  And the current one, Shinzo Abe, had no choice but to do the same.  Murayama’s statement got wide play in South Korea and Japan. Here's Japan's public broadcaster NHK.


Reporter:

Murayama is the former leader of Japan’s Social Democratic Party, which is currently in opposition. He is on a private visit to South Korea – invited by the country's opposition lawmakers.


Tomiichi Murayama:

I am convinced that my statement has national consensus. Therefore, I can assure you that Mr. Shinzo Abe, as prime minister of Japan, cannot deny my apology.


Reporter:

Murayama called on South Koreans to work to improve relations with Japan that have soured over historical and other issues.


Tomiichi Murayama:

Japan and South Korea must maintain friendly ties. For their mutual benefit, the development of the whole Asian region and world peace.


Reporter:

South Korean president Park Guen-hye reportedly considered meeting with Murayama, but decided not to.

 
 

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Bangkok Declares State of Emergency as Protests Heat Up
Kwanchai Praipana, an outspoken leader of the so-called ‘red shirt party’ – those people who support the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – was wounded after gunmen fired on his house. The attack came on the first day of a state of emergency imposed by Yingluck and is the latest in a string of shootings and bombings in Thailand. The newly declared state of emergency in and around the capital seems to have had no effect so far. Protesters are still occupying major roads, intersections and business districts. Here’s NHK's report.

Reporter:
The day after the government announcement the demonstrators are still in place across the capital while the authorities looked on as before.

Demonstrator:
They have no way out. That’s why they declared a state of emergency. They are trying to cover us up.

Reporter:
Since late last week, there have been bombed attacks targeting demonstrators. One person has been killed and more than 60 injured. Fears are growing over the deteriorating security situation. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has so far given no indication that she intends to remove the protestors’ camps in the wake of the emergency declaration. The ongoing security operation is being laid by the police while the Thai military is remaining neutral and observing developments. Meanwhile on Wednesday the election committee asked the constitutional courts to decide if it has the right to delay the upcoming election.

The current tensions highlight more than 8 years of division in Thai society. Prime minister Yingluck and her brother, the self-exiled ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, still have strong support in rural parts of northern and northeastern Thailand. The anti-Thaksin side relies mostly on the urban middle class for support.

Despite the current state of emergency, the protestors are going nowhere and are sticking to their demand that next month general election be postponed. They also say deep reforms are necessary before any poll can be held. However, if the government decides to use force to crack down on the protest movement, the potential for even greater unrest is clear to see.
 
 

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Thailand's Opposition Rejects Elections, Ramps up Protests
Thailand protestsThailand's political crisis does not seem to be easing. Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra had offered to meet with her opponents to try to solve the impasse. But they won't talk. They want Yingluck to resign and cancel next month's elections. She's refused and said elections would go ahead February 2nd. Meantime, big street protests continue in Bangkok. Here's Japan's public broadcaster, NHK.

Reporter:
The prime minister offered to meet with the opposition on Wednesday to discuss an Election Commission proposal to delay the general election. However, opposition leaders are boycotting the poll entirely, and declined to join the discussion. Yingluck said the election would be held on February 2nd as scheduled.

Yingluck Shinawatra:
It is our job to hold an election in accordance with the law and the constitution.

Reporter:
The leader of the anti-government demonstrators, Suthep Thaugsuban, expressed his opposition.

Suthep Thaugsuban:
I don't know who was at the meeting today. But the people don't agree with holding an election under the same rules and same laws. Such an election would allow vote-buying and vote-rigging and would be impure and unfair.

Reporter:
The protesters surrounded several government offices in a bid to prevent civil servants from getting to work. The anti-government side, which draws largely on the country's urban middle class for its support, insists the election be postponed until political reforms are made. But Yingluck's Pheu Thai party is reportedly ahead in the race to polling day, with especially strong support in the rural areas. The shutdown campaign had been relatively peaceful since the shutdown campaign began on Monday. However, police say at least three people were injured in a shooting near the rally site on Wednesday morning. No one was hurt by an explosion near the house of former Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, now leader of the largest opposition party. No suspects have been identified.
 
 

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Bangladesh: Prime Minister Denies Election Fraud Allegations
BangladeshBangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina shrugged off accusations that last Sunday's elections were illegitimate. This in spite of a boycott of the voting by 18 opposition parties, including the large Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Japan's national broadcaster, NHK, reports from Dhaka.

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh:
It doesn't mean that there will be a question of legitimacy or anything more. People participated in the poll, and other political parties, they participated. And election, well definitely it is our constitutional obligation to hold elections.

Reporter:
In the election, more than half of the parliamentary seats up for grabs were uncontested after the largest opposition party and 17 other groups refused to take part. The ruling Awami League is expected to win more than two-thirds of the seats. Clashes between opposition supporters and security forces have left many people dead or wounded. The prime minister labeled the protests terrorist activities. Hasina said that if opposition leaders want to hold discussions with the government, the have to stop terrorist activities.
 
 

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Japan to Ramp Up Military Under Banner of 'Proactive Pacifism'

Japan's militaryJapan has taken a major step in modernizing its military. Since the end of World War Two, Japan's defense forces have been limited by a strict interpretation of its pacifist constitution. But prime minister Shinzo Abe has broken through those limits. His cabinet has passed a wide-ranging defense program. Japan's public broadcaster NHK aired this report on December 17th.

 

Shinzo Abe:
Japan will contribute further to international peace and stability from the stance of "proactive pacifism."

Reporter:
The strategy says China's foreign policies and military posture are matters of concern for Japan and other nations. And, it adds, they must be monitored closely. The paper says recent moves by China indicate authorities in Beijing may be trying to use force to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas. But it says they are using claims that are inconsistent with international law. It says Japan will work to establish strategic and mutually-beneficial ties with China from a broad, long-term perspective. It notes leaders in Tokyo will call for restraint from their counterparts in Beijing. The strategy says Japan will consider reviewing its policy on arms exports. Currently, such exports are essentially banned. The strategy also emphasizes the need to raise public awareness about national security.

The guidelines recommend greater operational integration between Japan's air, ground, and maritime Self-Defense Forces. They say units should be more mobile and they say Japan should enhance its deterrence and response capabilities by securing necessary and sufficient power. Specifically, they call for the creation of an amphibious brigade within the ground Self-Defense Force. The unit would quickly respond to an invasion of remote islands and re-take them. The guidelines say it should be equipped with 52 amphibious vehicles, and an increased number of destroyers and fighter aircraft. The package calls for the introduction of 17 Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft, three drones and 99 combat vehicles. The aim is to strengthen mobility and surveillance activities. The guidelines say Japanese leaders should assess their capability to respond to North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities. Analysts see this as a reference to a possibility of a shift in policy that would allow them to strike enemy bases.

 
 

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