Concerns over U.S. power, fair treatment of ex-leader heard Asian countries gave a cautious welcome to news that U.S. forces had captured ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein but worried aloud over growing U.S. dominance, a fair trial, and post-war reconstruction in Iraq, RFA reports.
�We hope that the latest development of situation in Iraq is conducive to the Iraqi people taking their destiny into their own hands, and to realizing peace and stability in Iraq,� Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement, hinting at Beijing�s concerns at Washington�s increasing dominance.
Liu said that when Saddam was in power, the Iraqi people �suffered from several wars and sanctions for many years.�
The note of caution was echoed in Cambodia, where Foreign Minister Hor Namhong underlined the continuing violence under the U.S. occupation of Iraq. �I hope that Saddam Saddam�s capture will shorten or end the bloodshed in Iraq and end the deaths of Americans and Iraqi people,� Hor Namhong said. �At the same time, Cambodia hopes that the legal process against Saddam Hussein will be conducted with justice.�
In Hanoi, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry called for �the resolution of issues pertaining to Iraq... based on respect for Iraq�s independence and sovereignty and conformity with international laws and norms that meet the Iraqi people�s aspirations.�
�Vietnam is always interested in the situation in Iraq and wants the situation there to stabilize soon and the Iraqi people to restore their sovereignty and rebuild their country,� Ministry spokesman Le Dung said in a statement.
Pro-democracy voices mostly greeted Saddam�s capture with enthusiasm. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Saddam�s capture was a victory for the U.S.-led international coalition against terrorism, calling it �a major milestone.�
She pledged continued support from Filipino peacekeepers and humanitarian workers in the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.
South Korea also welcomed the news. �Our government hopes that the capture ... will serve as an opportunity to eradicate terrorism in Iraq as well as bring about political stability and improved livelihood of the Iraqi people and to accelerate post-war recovery and reconstruction work there,�� its Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Cambodian opposition politician Sam Rainsy said the news was good for pro-democracy forces everywhere. �Saddam Hussein and a number of other despots who committed crimes have to pay in the end. Therefore, this is a warning to all despots, especially to the one in Cambodia,� he told RFA�s Khmer service.
Concerns that the legal process against Saddam should be fair were repeated throughout the region.
The Indonesian political and security affairs minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, told reporters in Jakarta that Saddam deserved to receive a fair trial regardless of his past deeds.
�The possible trial of Saddam Hussein must take the humanitarian aspects into serious account,� he said. �If an accountable, transparent and fair trial delivers a verdict, I think the world will accept it,� Susilo said.
In China, the official People�s Daily newspaper �in a commentary titled �What on earth does it mean?� �described the question of how to put Saddam on trial as �a knotty problem.� It quoted University of California political science professor Etel Solingen as saying a fair trial for Saddam looked �uncertain.�
At street level, Chinese people voiced even greater concerns, sparked by media commentaries about U.S. power in a unipolar world.
�What�s good about it is that the Iraqi people are now free from Saddam Hussein�s rule,� a man from Ningbo city in the eastern province of Zhejiang told RFA�s Mandarin service. �The bad thing is that probably the next target of the United States will be China. I�ve read today�s newspaper, in which some Chinese political analysts have written such analyses.�
One woman in Sanming, in the southwestern province of Fujian, said most Iraqi people seemed to support Saddam. �I feel sorry for Saddam Hussein. I feel he has been reduced by the United States to such a piteous state,� she told RFA. �I also feel Bush likes launching wars. This American war against Iraq was really launched out of excuses for striking Iraq,� she said, voicing views echoed recently in Internet chat rooms across China.
Others appeared more philosophical. �Saddam Hussein brought this fate directly on himself, through his love for war,� a man in Shijiazhuang city, in the northern province of Hebei, told RFA. �What�s more, his invasion of Kuwait was wrong.�
And some in the region took a wider message from the news. �I believe the entire Cambodian people are opposed to whatever is authoritarian, [whatever] concerns the movement toward violence,� Norodom Sirivudh, secretary general of the royalist FUNCINPEC party, told RFA�s Khmer service. �Therefore, this is a victory not just for the Iraqi people. I believe that all the people of the world support this culture of peace.�
Richard Baker, an expert on U.S.-Asian relations at the East-West Center in Honolulu, said initial international reaction suggests Saddam's capture will do little if anything to rebuild confidence in American leadership.
"The critics of U.S. policy in Iraq have no inclination�or reason, at this point�to applaud the capture because they do not see it as changing the broader policies which they oppose," Baker said. "So the focus of much international comment on the capture has had a decidedly suspicious or negative tone." #####