VIETNAM: Dramatically Reaching Out to Japan’s Kyodo News

Vietnam has had a tortured relationship at best with once-aggressive Japan, as it has had with the United States. But one thing both Tokyo and Washington have learned about this large, thinly vertical, well-populated and exceptionally feisty Southeast Asia country: Invading, occupying or even trying to “save Vietnam from communism” is no fun – no fun at all. For its part, Hanoi over time has come to the conclusion that making friends with Tokyo and Washington makes a lot more sense than being at pugilistic odds. This is especially true in the age of China’s rise. Some Asian countries view its economic and military as a serious potential threat.

So every public bit of reach-out by Vietnam has significance these days, as in the case of the new agreement between the official Vietnam News Agency and Japan’s mammoth Kyodo News. VNA General Director Nguyen Duc Loi and Kyodo News President Satoshi Ishikawa recently shook hands over a joint plan to cooperate on news-gathering, avoid duplicate costs and underwrite Japanese and Vietnamese language training for their reporters.

In the process, Vietnam’s Loi, while in Japan to see Kyodo, appeared to be almost a one-man diplomatic mission. He met with top cabinet ministers, Diet members, newspaper editors in Hiroshima and Kyoto and even the leader of Japan’s currently ruling Democratic Party. General Director Loi freely admitted that VNA was the Vietnamese Government’s official information organ and hoped that the new mode of cooperation with Japan’s media would “strengthen mutual understanding.” This is diplo-speak for: Let there be more positive stories about Vietnam in the Japanese media.

There’s really nothing wrong with that — up to a point.

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