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Vietnam singer Mai Khoi adds a youthful tone to aged politics

Vietnam is a young and dynamic country. Out of Vietnam's total population of around 90 million, 40 percent are 24 years old or younger. The economy is growing quickly and in the metropolises of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, skyscrapers are shooting up out of the ground.

But politics in Vietnam isn't as young and dynamic. The Vietnamese Communist Party (CPV) has been in power longer than any other communist party in the world. The CPV does not tolerate any political forces alongside it. Elder party members have warned for a long time that a "peaceful evolution" to a more pluralistic system could undercut the CPV's monopoly on power.

During National Assembly elections in May 2016, Vietnamese singer-songwriter Mai Khoi stirred up controversy by announcing she would run as a candidate. She was unsuccessful, but her action ignited a debate over political participation in Vietnam. That same month, then-US President Obama travelled to Hanoi and met with the singer and other political activists. And her candidacy was not the first time that Mai Khoi stood up for democracy, human rights and countering violence against women.

Right now, Mai Khoi is working on a new album and her music is connecting to an influential and rich tradition of political songs.

DW invited the signer and activist to speak at the 2017 Global Media Forum and provide musical accompaniment to the Freedom of Speech award. The prize has been given out since 2015 to people or institutions that have made outstanding or unique contributions to human rights and freedom of speech.

DW: When and how did you begin to develop an interest in politics?

Mai Khoi: I really began to develop an interest in politics after I was encouraged by friends to run as an independent candidate for the National Assembly. That was in February 2016 and for me it started there.

I had already been involved with different social projects, and at the time, I found many things with politics and the political system to be problematic. This sense has become stronger since my candidacy. Since that experience, I see much clearer how many barriers there are in Vietnam. I also met many people who share similar feelings.

How can you explain why Vietnamese - especially youth- are not interested in poltics?

In my view, this has a lot to do with the educational system in Vietnam. This narrow system leads people to fear coming in contact with politics. They think that this is the job only of the state system and the government - it has nothing to do with them and they shouldn't speak about it.

They are also afraid of endangering themselves. This is especially true for young people who don't have the courage to ask political questions. Unfortunately, this also means that they don't think about many social and civic issues.

What can be done to get more people interested in politics?

Foremost, it is important to attract people to political issues - young, old and across


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Preemptive strike against North Korea not an option, says former Pentagon chief Perry

William Perry served as US Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 1997. After his tenure at the Pentagon, he observed Korean affairs up close while serving as Clinton's Special Envoy to North Korea. Perry is also the founder of the Perry Project, which aims to educate the public about the danger of nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

Days after the death of an American student who had been detained under the guise of having committed crimes against the regime, DW asks Perry for his take on the dangers posed by Kim Jong-un's unpredictable regime, the current diplomatic stalemate, and whether there are any prospects for detente or even a unified Korea.

Deutsche Welle: Before the death of American student Otto Warmbier after his return from North Korea, you said that you see an opening for diplomacy with North Korea. Has Otto Warmbier's death changed your thinking?

William Perry: It has not, because I'd already believed that this regime was ruthless and the action they had taken with this hostage were very similar to the actions they have taken with the other hostages and to assassination attempts they made in South Korea. So if we are going into negotiation with North Korea, we have to do it with our eyes wide open. This is a ruthless, ruthless regime and we should understand that from the beginning. It's a ruthless regime that has nuclear weapons and we have to find a way of dealing with those nuclear weapons. My contention is that the only reasonable way to deal with them today is through diplomacy, and I do think we have an opportunity to succeed in diplomacy.

According to media reports North Korea's ambassador to India said the country is willing to talk to the US about a nuclear testing freeze, and China's foreign minister and South Korea's new president have also been pushing for new negotiations with North Korea in talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis. President Donald Trump recently seemed to close the door on trying to work with China on the North Korean issue while his Secretary of State appeared to try to hold that door open . Do you think the Trump administration is speaking with one voice on North Korea and has a coherent strategy for dealing with the country?

President Trump has said contradictory things about negotiating with North Korea, so I don't take that as a guideline. I think the important thing is what the security team is saying. In this case, I think Tillerson and Mattis and possibly [National Security Advisor H.R.] McMaster are all interested in looking at the possibility of negotiations. So it's possible that they will come up with a negotiating approach and present it to the president.

Trump has said that all options are on the table. Do you see a preemptive strike, a military option, being a viable path forward?

I have myself - both when I was Secretary of Defense and, later, when I was