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Sunday, July 31, 2011

READERS IN COUNCIL

Reports on Viet Cong made sense


Tokyo

On the question of Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett, who was denied a passport in the 1960s by the Australian government, I agree with Roan Suda's July 28 letter, "Portrayal of a leftist journalist," that Burchett was both pro-communist biased and sometimes sloppy in the use of dates and names. But that does not deny the quality of much of his on-the-spot reporting.

In 1964, when I was first secretary at Canberra's Moscow Embassy, the photos he showed me of the well-trained and equipped Viet Cong jungle units he had seen on a dangerous undercover trip to South Vietnam made a lot more sense than Canberra's and Washington's claims that the Viet Cong were no more than a bandit rabble.

When I forwarded his claim that he had visited pro-Viet Cong villages just outside Saigon's main airport, I was told by both Canberra and Washington that it was impossible and that Burchett was lying. Months later, rockets from those villages began falling on the airport.

Suda condemns Burchett's praise for North Korea. But as late as 1961, North Korea's standard of living was twice that of South Korea despite the damage of the Korean War. Its slide into the "hellhole" that Suda mentions came some time later.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer's own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.


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