- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2003

Asia had mixed reaction Friday to President Bush's request to the world to sever relations with Iraq and expel Iraqi ambassadors. Protests in the region, some violent, and resolutions denouncing the U.S.-led attack on Iraq marked the second day of reactions in the region to the war.

In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation and a vocal critic of the war, the government rejected Bush's demand.

"Of course we reject it, that's the individual right of every country involved," Vice President Hamzah Haz said Friday.

Japan, the regional economic giant and a supporter of the U.S. position, declined to comment.

Asked if Tokyo had received the U.S. request, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said, "Japan is closely cooperating with the United States, but it's not in a stage to comment on that."

The Kyodo News Service reported Koizumi also declined to comment on what the government will do if it received such a request.

Protests continued Friday outside the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

"It is not too late," Kazunori Hirose, a graduate student who has been protesting since Tuesday told Kyodo. "If you feel that there is something wrong with what the United States is saying about freedom, then you should summon up your courage to express it."

In China, a permanent, veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, the National People's Congress condemned the hostilities.

"The military actions against Iraq by the United States and other countries will lead to humanitarian disaster, result in casualties and property loss of the Iraqi people, and endanger regional peace and stability," it said in a statement reported by the official Xinhua news agency. "We are deeply worried about the development of the situation. We strongly urge the countries concerned to comply with the wish of the international community, halt the military actions, and quickly return to the course of political solution."

Official media lambasted the decision to go to war.

"Mark the day: March 20, 2003. History will record it when bombs, instead of international laws, started to count in regional or world conflicts," said an editorial in the official English-language newspaper, the China Daily.

A cartoon of President Bush dressed as a cowboy with his finger in his ear pointing a gun at a microphone on the podium ran alongside the piece.

The People's Daily, China's government mouthpiece, ran an opinion piece with the same sentiments.

"It is a war that lacks legitimacy. The U.S. did not obtain permission from the United Nations," it said.

The war, however, did bring China and Taiwan closer.

Beijing announced Friday that for the first time ever it will allow Taiwanese airlines to make emergency over flights during the Iraq war. Beijing regards Taiwan as renegade province.

In the Korean Peninsula, North Korea said the South had been attempting to use the Iraq conflict as an occasion to launch "hostile, anti-North" campaigns. It said the conflict in the Gulf would have "disastrous consequences."

Seoul backs the war.

In India, which is an ally of both Washington and Baghdad, protests against the U.S. action turned violent. On Thursday, the first day of the strikes, the New Delhi said it was "disappointed" war had broken out.

On Friday, anti-U.S. protests in Indian Kashmir turned violent.

Protesters in the state capital, Srinagar, stoned police officials and private and police vehicles, the semi-official Press Trust of India reported. The crowds chanted anti-U.S. slogans and expressed solidarity with the Iraqi people. Many businesses were closed. There were no arrests.

In neighboring Pakistan, also a key U.S. ally, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Qaid-i-Azam faction adopted a resolution condemning the attack.

Anti-U.S. protests were held Friday across the country. Rallies were held in Lahore, the North West Frontier Province, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Bahawulpur, and other cities, Radio Pakistan reported.

In Thailand, several hundred protesters chanted slogans and waved anti-American banners outside the U.S. Embassy in

Bangkok in a loud but peaceful rally against the war.

Demonstrations and prayer meetings also took place in two of Thailand's predominantly Muslim southern provinces, Yala and Pattani, where activists said they were organizing a boycott of American-made products.

Demonstrators marched along Bangkok's Wireless Road from Lumpini Park to the nearby U.S. Embassy, where they chanted

"Bush is the terrorist" and "No blood for oil" under the watchful eyes of dozens of Thai police guarding the heavily fortified mission.

"Butcher Bush - How many kids did you kill today?" read a banner carried by the demonstrators.

"Innocent people, women, children and the elderly of Iraq have the absolute right to live their lives free from the risk and peril of war," said a statement issued by the organization that mounted the protest, Solidarity for World Peace.

"Any claim which leads to the loss of human lives, human dignity and the sovereignty of a state is a severe crime and it is not acceptable by the international community."

Although many women in black, Muslim-style robes took part in the demonstration, most participants appeared to be members of Thailand's Buddhist majority.

In a speech to the crowd in front of the embassy, Labor organizer Giles Ungpakorn expressed frustration with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for failing to condemn the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

He also called on the Thai government to cancel annual Cobra Gold military exercises with U.S. forces.

On Thursday police arrested a lone American demonstrator in front of the embassy who had laid down on the pavement in an effort to stop traffic from going in and out of the building.

The American, identified as Yeshua Moser, was later released after questioning by police.

A series of anti-American demonstrations also took place in southern Thailand, where sympathy for Iraq is strongest among the region's mainly Muslim population.

The protesters poured Coca-Cola and Pepsi into the street and urged all Muslims to avoid American food and other products.

"Stop buying American products. Your money will become weapons to kill Muslims," said a protest sign at the demonstration Pattani province Friday.

The Central Islamic Committee of Thailand urged the United Nations to reassert its role to bring peace to Iraq.

"The U.S. and the English have attacked Iraq without any United Nations sanction," the committee said in a statement. "They have ignored the voice of their own people and other people who love peace all over the world. On behalf of Muslims, we condemn the U.S. and British government acts against Iraq. These acts are terrorist acts.

Allah must punish whoever threatens world peace and the world community."


(With reporting by Katherine Arms in Hong Kong, Jong-Heon Lee in Seoul, South Korea, and John Hale in Bangkok)

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