Asian nations welcomed President Bush’s State of the Union warning to “the world’s most dangerous regimes,” with South Korea calling it a signal for North Korea to resume negotiations on ending its nuclear weapons programs.
Others applauded Bush’s pledge to confront “the regimes that harbor and support terrorists.”
Bush singled out North Korea and Iran on the nuclear issue during Tuesday’s address, pledging that “America is committed to keeping the world’s most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous regimes.”
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the speech underscored Washington’s consistent hard-line stand against weapons of mass destruction, and Bush has not dramatically changed his stance since he branded those countries, along with Iraq, as forming an “axis of evil” two years ago.
In Japan, parts of Bush’s speech were carried live on television, and news reports led with his defense of the war in Iraq and support for Libya’s cooperation on nuclear programs.
“The U.S. president clearly sent a message that North Korea should come out to negotiate and not ignore the nuclear issue,” said Shin Bong-kil, a spokesman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry.
China, North Korea’s only major ally, was silent about Bush’s warning, with authorities acknowledging only Bush’s proposal on economic programs.
“We have noticed President Bush’s speech and the economic programs he has put forward,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a short statement.
Others see the U.S. as a threat
Many South Koreans do not consider North Korea to be a looming threat, but rather a misguided cousin that needs coaxing to end its nuclear weapons programs.
“The United States itself is the most dangerous regime in the world,” said Sunnyo Shin, a 33-year-old unemployed office worker. “Rather than bringing freedom to the Iraqi people, the United States is infringing on their sovereignty.”
Others in Asia voiced similar opinions.
A member of the Thai Interreligious Network for Peace, Yongyut Buranacharoenkit, called the United States the “biggest bully.”
“There should be none of this separation of countries that are dangerous and those that are not, definitions that the United States created itself,” he said. “I think no matter whose hands these weapons are in, they are dangerous.”
Bush’s appraisal of Iran brought criticism from K.S. Bajpai, the former Indian ambassador to the United States, who otherwise praised the president’s objectives. India and Iran have strong ties.
“We will not call Iran most dangerous and we will also not agree to vilification of Iran,” Bajpai said.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, a group of Indonesians were invited to view Bush’s address at the U.S. Embassy and engage U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce in a question-and-answer session afterward.
“I think (the speech) was very good and very good for a second term for Bush,” said Putu Antara, a 64-year-old banker from Bali, where Oct. 12, 2002, nightclub bombings killed 202 people. “As a Balinese man, I was happy to hear about what he (Bush) said about terrorism.”