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Asia Reacts to US Attack on Iraq - 2003-03-20

In Asia, there are strong and varied responses to U.S.-led military strikes on Iraq. Predominantly Muslim nations issued stark condemnations, as did China and India, while traditional U.S. allies expressed support for what they called a justified action.

Within the first few hours of the United States launching missile attacks against Iraq, U.S. allies in Asia offered support.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun on Thursday called the action inevitable, and pledged non-combat support. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo says her government is part of what she called a "coalition of the willing" to give moral and political backing. In Japan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi blamed Iraq for ignoring U.N. resolutions and not making a sincere effort to disarm.

The prime minister says Japan supports the U.S. military action, hopes the war will be swift and pledges Japan will help rebuild Iraq. Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who faces strong opposition at home, addressed his nation. "The government has decided to commit Australia forces to action to disarm Iraq, because we believe it is right, it is lawful and it is in Australia's national interest," he said.

Some 2,000 Australian troops are taking part in the operations against Iraq.

But nations with majority Muslim populations condemned the United States and its allies, saying the attack is, at best, unlawful and at worst, an attack on Islam.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri:

She says the government and the people of Indonesia strongly deplore the unilateral action by the United States and its allies to go to war against Iraq. The president calls for the U.N. Security Council to convene an emergency session to try to stop the war.

Pakistan and Malaysia, both allies in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, also objected.

India's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Navtej Sarna, says his government believes U.N. arms inspectors were making progress on disarming Iraq. "The military action begun today, thus lacks justification," he said. "The international community must already begin large-scale efforts to alleviate the human suffering, and India will be ready to play its part in such an effort."

China, which just this week installed a new government, was unusually critical and demanded an immediate halt to the attacks.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan:

He says the action disregards the opinion of most countries, violates the U.N. charter and the norms of international law.

In another unusual move, Chinese state-controlled media aired live President Bush's announcement that military action had begun, and also broadcast Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's speech to his country.