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A Sampling of Asian Comment on the 9/11 Attacks and Their Aftermath: East Asia

Focus on East Asia

By Clayton Dube

Asia and 9.11 homepage

China || Hong Kong || Japan || South Korea || Taiwan


Foreign Ministry Chinese English
On September 9-12, the front page of the Chinese section of the ministry's website did not include any 9/11 related statements among its news releases.

China Daily

On its September 11, 2002 opening web page, China's official English language newspaper carried a Reuters photo of a demonstration in Hong Kong with the following caption:

"Anti-US activists pay tribute to those killed in last years terrorist attacks and to civilians killed in Afganistan, outside the United States consulate in Hong Kong September 11, 2002. Protesters marked the anniversary with a plea to the United States to avoid war with Iraq."

The print edition carried an article by MENG Yan and SHAO Zongwei on Chinese President JIANG Zemin's Sept. 10 statement affirming China's "opposition to 'terrorism of all forms'." Jiang spoke during a visit from Singapore's Senior Minister LEE Kuan Yew. Jiang's other comments reminded his audience that China opposes U.S. unilateralism and insists that the U.N. Security Council, where China has a permanent seat, should lead the anti-terrorism effort. The article also offers:

"Expressing China's grief for those killed in the attacks in the US one year ago, Foreign Ministry spokesman KONG Quan said China sternly opposes terrorism in all forms, regardless of its geographical location or target....

"Kong said the global co-operation to counter terrorism has been generally effective but he urged for an enhancement in co-operation and for the adoption of a comprehensive strategy based on the UN Charter to treat the issue by also looking at its causes."

In another article, spokesman Kong is quoted extending these points with regard to Iraq, "Iraq should resume its co-operation with the UN and accept the return of UN inspectors to Baghdad, and Iraqi concern for its territorial integrity and sovereignty should be respected."

"The world moves on" is the title of the China Daily editorial for September 11.

"As the strains of [Mozart's] Requiem play out in unison in memory of those innocents who lost their lives, so too will all the right-thinking people around the world, opposed to terrorism, be joined in one accord.

"Today is a day of sympathy and sorrow, of remorse and remembrance.

"It is also a day of appreciation for the courage and sacrifice of those who gave their lives so heroically to save others.

"In the crime against humanity carried out a year ago, thousands of lives were cut short or ruined, not all of them American. People from 80 different countries and regions were killed in the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

"And the response to September 11 is clear on one level: terrorism will never succeed.

"The world is moving on with global efforts made to ensure that nothing similar will happen again.

People's Daily

Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) is the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party. On September 11, 2002, the anniversary was among the lead stories on the paper's Chinese website and was the lead story on the paper's English site. The Chinese site's anniversary section offered a rich photo exhibition with images of the U.S. military in action in Afghanistan and in the Middle East, the devastation of the 9/11 attacks, and memorial services in the U.S. It also offered selections from various Chinese publications such as Chinese Youth News (Zhongguo qingnian bao) on the impact of the attacks and current affairs. Chinese Youth News, for example, noted that a recent poll indicated that 70% of Americans said they were profoundly affected by the incident and that one-fourth of all Americans had a sense of helplessness after the assault.

On the English site, the main story carried the headline "A Year After 'September 11' Attack" and began:

"On September 11 a year ago, the indicative building of the World Trade Center collapsed, and the myth of the Americans' psychological "absolute security of the native land" exploded. The ensuing American war against Afghanistan raised the curtain of a "globe-wide" attack on terrorism. The gradual international political situation after the Cold War began to undergo radical evolution.

"On the one hand, the new imperial empire concept of value has gained a new market in the superpower, the United States, Bush-ism experiences constant expansion in the anti-terrorist war. On the other hand, Europe, Russia and other world political forces have made their respective response, the quiet Central Asia has become a new hot spot, Middle East contradiction among the hot spots has further intensified."

This article was also the second one included in the "opinion" section of the website. It emphasizes the increased American military presence in Asia:

"Taking advantage of the unprecedented moral support extended to the United States by the international community, America has successfully organized an international counter-terrorist alliance, and has gained political dominant power; it has strengthened its relations with its allies, at the same time it has pushed forward its ties with other big powers, particularly US-Russian relations; US troops have entered Central Asia, gone deep into South Asia and returned to Southeast Asia, and further enhanced the superiority of its global strategy. In the anti-terrorist war, it has put into practice its theory of military revolution, and displayed and consolidated its military superiority. Generally speaking, the US status as the superpower has become more prominent after 'September 11.'"

Judging the U.S. as militarily overconfident, the authors list examples of the Bush administration's unilateralism (e.g., "threatens to attack Iraq in defiance of everything; economically, it wages an iron and steel trade war, while asking other countries to cut down subsidies to agricultural products, it has decided to provide American farmers with financial aid of US$13 billion"). The authors note tensions that have emerged between the U.S. and the European Union and between the U.S. and Russia.

After noting the deteroriating Israeli-Palestinian situation, the authors conclude by arguing the U.S. considers Iraq a fundamental and pressing problem: "For many years, the Saddam Hussein regime of Iraq has all along been a 'heart disease'of the United States, an American 'down with Saddam' war is impending." Still, they believe there are significant political and diplomatic obstacles to overcome before the Bush administration can launch war against the Iraqi regime.

As noted, this report was featured in the opinion section as well as the front page of the People's Daily Online. Another editorial (dated Sept. 8, 2002), however, focused on the impact of September 11 on Japan and on Sino-Japanese relations:

"The Sep. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States gave Japan opportunities to expand its military role overseas in the name of the US-led anti-terrorism war...."

The Japanese government, the editorial argues, was strengthening its military and moving to expand its role prior to September 11, but the "terrorist attacks in the United States did give Japan a chance to quicken the process. What would have taken several years to happen now took place in several weeks." The editorial, partially credited to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, concludes by noting that increased Japanese military activity overseas will face both domestic and international opposition.

Shanghai Daily/Eastday.com

The Shanghai Daily is an English language paper. Part of its contents are included on the Eastday.com website. On September 11, the paper featured 9/11 articles as its top two stories. The first, "One year later, fear grips Asia" discusses the closure of U.S. embassies and other facilities in Indonesia and the Philippines and the arrest of suspected Al-Qaeda supporters in Singapore and Malaysia. The second story, from the Associated Press, noted "9/11 flights empty." Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines was among those reporting a significant drop in ticket sales for flights on the anniversary of the hijackings/attacks.

Hong Kong

South China Morning Post

Long the leading Hong Kong English language newspaper, the South China Morning Post has a special sections of its website devoted to "America Under Attack" and "September 11 - One Year On." These sections require a paid subscription. One of its lead stories on the main free portion of the website for September 11 is an Associated Press story from Baghdad, headlined "Iraq says 9/11 attacks were 'God's punishment.'"

"The September 11 attacks were remembered on Wednesday as ''God's punishment'' on America among Iraqis fearful and angry at the possibility the United States might attack to topple their president.

'''Events like September 11 are sad but it is an opportunity for the American people to feel what bombing could do to nations,'' Ali Ahmed, a 47-year-old who owns a Baghdad stationary shop, said on Wednesday, the first anniversary of the attacks. '''America has proven it has no respect for nations by wanting to change the government in Iraq. How would an American feel toward somebody who wants to change his government?'''


Asahi Shimbun

The Asahi Shimbun has the largest circulation of any newspaper in Japan. Its lead story on September 11, 2002 was the country's successful launch of the H-IIA rocket: "National Space Development Agency (NASDA) officials breathed a collective sigh of relief Tuesday as [the] rocket ... lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center." This rocket replaced one which failed in 1998 and 1999 tests.

The paper's international section offered two war on terrorism-related stories. U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker is cited in one (by Paul Murphy) as indicating a U.S. war on Iraq would ''`expose differences'' between Tokyo and Washington, but is not likely to fatally undermine the bilateral relationship..." Speaking to foreign correspondents in Tokyo, Baker is quoted as saying "Whether [the Iraq question] opens any daylight between us or not remains to be seen. I do not think it will alter in a fundamental way the friendship and alliance between Japan and the U.S."

The second article (by ITAGAKI Tetsuya) focuses on the upcoming U.S. visit by the Japanese prime minister. Titled "Koizumi to tell Bush: Hit Iraq as a last resort," the article noted Prime Minister Koizumi told a Boston audience that the U.S. and others needed to work hard to convince Saddam Huessein to permit a return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq. The prime minister was quoted as saying, "Military action is the final measure to be used when all other options have been explored...'' "A high degree of effort will be required to gain Iraqi acceptance of an inspection by U.N. officials, and it will be important to encourage Iraq to make a sincere response toward international society.'' Itagaki reported that "Koizumi said that even after all options have been exhausted, the United States should still justify its plans and seek the cooperation of its allies before launching a military strike."

The lead September 11 editorial offers ideas on "A changing Arab world." It begins by noting that Americans are not the only ones asking "why us?" and goes on to note the limited economic gains and political freedoms enjoyed by most people in the Arab world.

"They also wonder why they are so reviled.

"The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year raised a vital question: Why has Arab society generated terrorists? Just as Americans have begun to ask why they are hated so, the Arab nations are groping for answers.

"One source of this effort is among Islamic organizations in Egypt, the birthplace of fundamentalist Islam. There, they ask whether Muslims can achieve their objectives simply by cursing the Americans....

"Resentment of corrupt governments is boiling over in the Arab world. Left behind people in other parts of the world in economic development, Arabs find themselves no better off now than before, but they are unable to change the political situation because there are still no democratic institutions in place. Their anger is vented at the United States, which they see providing behind-the-scenes support of their governments....

"Another notable development is the United Nations Development Program's 'Arab Human Development Report 2002,'' the first prepared by Arab intellectuals. It provides a statistical analysis of problems in Arab countries. Among them, it notes that even though there are oil-producing Arab nations, the growth of per capita income in those countries is the second-lowest in the world after nations of sub-Sahara Africa. Political freedom is the lowest among the seven regions of the world."

Japan Times

As with Asahi Shimbun, the Japan Times (Japan's oldest English language paper) had as its September 11, 2002 top story the third launch of a H-IIA rocket and the deployment of two satellites. The article notes that, if successful, the deployment would be Japan's first in over seven years and would demonstrate the utility of Japanese rockets in furthering the Japanese space program.

After the rocket launch report, the top story concerned Japanese Prime Minister KOIZUMI Junichiro's efforts to get U.S. President Bush to work harder at diplomacy to build an international coalition prior to attacking Iraq. It quotes the prime minister as saying, "International cooperation and legitimacy are essential in any war." Koizumi will go to North Korea later in the fall and indicated he wanted to hear more about U.S. attitudes toward North Korea.

A September 10, 2002 editorial in the Times called upon the international community to keep its stated and its implied duty to reconstruct Afghanistan.

"The recent attacks target the credibility of the international community. Its commitment to a new order in Afghanistan is being tested. The response has been less than inspiring. There are 4,500 peacekeepers in Afghanistan, all of them in Kabul; Bosnia, which is a fraction of Afghanistan's size, has 18,000. At the Afghan reconstruction conference held earlier this year in Tokyo, governments promised $1.8 billion in aid and assistance to Afghanistan. Less than a third of that sum has been delivered.

"'Nation-building'is a troubling concept. For some, it smacks of imperialism and neocolonialism. To others, it is a fruitless attempt to stitch authority out of the air, a waste of valuable resources. When the process is done incorrectly, it is all those things. But as the history of modern Afghanistan shows, the failure to engage in nation-building, or the unwillingness to do it right, creates problems far worse. Nature and politics abhor a vacuum; al-Qaeda has proved more than willing to fill it."

On September 11, 2002, the Times carried an op-ed piece from Ronald Morse, Terasaki Professor of Japanese Studies at UCLA. Morse's essay, entitled "Once again at ground zero" doesn't focus on the September 11 attacks. Rather Morse argues that for the third time in two centuries, Japan is at a crossroads. He is not optimistic that the Koizumi government is up to the challenge:

"... Japan has been at ground zero two other times in its modern history and both times the outcome was not pretty.

"The first time was in the 1860s when the Tokugawa government was crumbling under the weight of bad economics and foreign pressure to open up to the world. That political revolution ushered in the Meiji Era government, which was dedicated to expelling the barbarians and restoring the Emperor. At that time, it opted to follow the Prussian model of government.

"The second time Tokyo hit political ground zero was in the 1930s, when it was again on the verge of economic collapse and the military decided to take over the government and form an alliance with Nazi Germany. Fascism was the politics of choice. In both of these cases the collapse of political leadership led to a swing to the right and a go-it-alone brand of Japanese rearmament.

"Could it happen again? Everyone I know says, 'No way.' Perhaps it can't, but all of the makings of a third modern political revolution with a traditional swing to the right are in place -- a collapsed economy, the search for political heroes (read Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara) and quick fixes, the desire for an independent military capability, and an undercurrent of anti-Americanism spiced with a confrontational posture toward Japan's historical rival, China."

The September 12 edition of the Japan Times included "Colleagues remember 9/11 dead." The memorial activities staged by Japanese companies which lost workers in the World Trade Center towers varied. Nishi-Nippon Bank had its 3,000 employees observe a moment of silence at 8:46 am 9/11 to remember two of its employees who perished. Chief Cabinet Secretary FUKUDA Yasuo is quoted as offering sympathy to the families of all who died:

"Many precious lives, including those of 24 Japanese, were lost, and many other people suffered. We as the (Japanese) government will offer our sincere condolences to all those who were victimized and express our sympathies to their families and those close to them."

South Korea

Chosun Ilbo

The paper's lead editorial on September 10 expressed the wish that 9/11 eventually be seen as "a historical turning point as humanity overcomes tragedy to create new hope." But the editors argue that U.S. unilateralism lessens the chances that this can happen.

"The US needs to be able to present the world with vision and prospects relating to its ideas of a new global order in the wake of 911. Doing so would also be responsible and becoming of its status as the world's only superpower. Despite this, the Bush Administration continues to be unsuccessful in its effort to win over the international community entirely. The US should also deeply reflect on how it is giving the impression that it is confusing the will of a determined superpower and American-style unilateralism.

"If the cowardly and repulsive factor that is terrorism is to be removed from the scene, there needs to be a change in the soil in which terrorism breeds. If this is going to happen, the Bush Administration will have to lessen the number of its enemies and increase the number of its comrades based on thoroughly universally accepted standards of international diplomacy, this instead of forcing all the countries of the world into one of either of these two categories.

"The Korean peninsula will never be free from the influence of the events of 911. The US is Korea's only ally, and North Korea belongs to the "Axis of Evil." The government, in order to prevent another security crisis on the Korean peninsula, must actively participate in the global discourse on the issue of terrorism and work to strengthen the US-Korea alliance."

The Korea Herald

The Korea Herald was begun as The Korean Republic in 1953. Among its lead stories for September 12 was one on the South Korean government's reaffirmation of support for the "U.S.-led global campaign against terrorism." Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hang-kyung, speaking at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Seoul said,

"Terrorism is a defiant challenge against human civilization and it should not be tolerated or justified under any pretext. It will always pay a severe price."

Among those attending the memorial service was Lee Hoi-chang, presidential nominee of the Grand National Party. South Korea will hold presidential elections in December 2002.

Earlier, the paper carried a report on how 9/11 had affected South Korea's relationship with North Korea. Reporter SHIN Yong-bae notes that many worried that North Korea might become an American target after U.S. President Bush named it part of an "axis of evil." In fact, the two regimes have recently managed to improve relations and North Korea and Japan are working towards establishing normal diplomatic relations. Several North-South initiatives including establishing a meeting place for separated families have moved ahead. Some argue that North Korean worries of U.S. military action prompted a more conciliatory atmosphere. A former North Korean economics professor, however, argued that the North sought to mute American hostility by seeking better ties with neighbors including Russia and Japan.

The newspaper's September 11 editorial "9/11: a year and after"begins with the contention that "9/11 could not change the time-tested theory of blood calling for more blood." The editors fear that the U.S. anger will yield continuing war.

"If the terrorists had aimed at disgracing and incapacitating the world's sole superpower with the horrible acts of violence, they were at best half successful. The insulted but empowered giant was never satisfied with pulverizing the core foes of al-Qaida and Taliban but is seeking a second target in Saddam Hussein, a thorn in America's flesh for decades. The preemptive attack on Iraq may happen next month or next year. Baghdad is vowing a do-or-die resistance, risking another multinational war.

"... [Many nations, including traditional allie have] suspicions about the obsession over Iraq within the family of U.S. President George Bush and in his administration. But if Bush has to hit Hussein just because the latter has a few nuclear bombs, the basis for attack is too weak. The former Soviet Union has a much bigger and more sophisticated nuclear arsenal. If countries are called rogue states just because they have - or want to have - a couple of atomic weapons, what would one call America, which has thousands of them?

"Hence the widespread assumption among diplomatic watchers that Washington wants to keep alive the war momentum with a 'visible enemy.' Underneath it is the open secret of U.S. desire to dominate the oil-rich Middle East as well as the need to both consume outdated and test newly-developed weapons to maintain the military-industrial complex....

"The U.S. is no longer just a superpower but a hyper-power, but it cannot go the unilateralist way anytime, anywhere. Secretary of State Colin Powell was snubbed [at an international environmental conference recently because of] U.S. adherence to fossil fuels by rigging more wells at home and abroad and its recalcitrance to develop alternative energy sources to prevent climatic disaster.

The editors argue the root of the problem is American unwillingness to understand and accept differences among peoples.

"Seeking Pax Americana is not necessarily bad but should be materialized through the globalization of America, not through the Americanization of the globe. The prospect of the world living peacefully under U.S. leadership could hardly turn into a reality as long as America remains hostile to anyone that would not accept its order and forces them to follow its hegemony. Washington, instead of trying to overcome anti-Americanism with enhanced public relations, should rather introduce some relativism in its international policies.

"If Washington is to attack Iraq, it should do so based on sufficient proof and the procedures set by the United Nations. Korea would be hard-pressed to assist in the "second-phase" anti-terrorism military campaigns. Under both the cause of global peace and practical interests of securing stable oil supply, Seoul is advised to oppose any further military conflict. Even if the government cannot refuse Washington's request for help for security and economic reasons, it should take a balanced approach not to anger its Arab friends.

"On the first anniversary of the immense tragedy, we offer our deep condolences to the families of the nearly 3,000 victims, including 18 ethnic Koreans. We also understand the U.S. fury over the inhumane acts of terror as well as its frustration over spreading anti-Americanism. But before Washington asks why the rest of the world increasingly dislikes its behavior, it should ponder what has turned the sympathy and support into reservation and opposition. Once again, the fundamental solution lies with eliminating not terrorists but the environment which spawns them."


Taipei Times

The lead story (under the headline "World Begins to Mark 'September 11' Attacks") was derived from wire service reports from Asia-Pacific capitals. It began with:

"As midnight struck, a lone American marine lowered his nation's flag to half-mast outside the US embassy in the Australian capital as the world started to commemorate the tragic events of a year ago.

"In the dead of night, the marine lowered the Stars and Stripes without ceremony, watched by a handful of security guards.

"'This is one way of paying respect and honoring the victims that perished in the terrorist attacks on a day of mourning,'an embassy spokesman said.

"It was a simple gesture to be repeated at US embassies and government facilities across the world today to mark the first anniversary of the suicide attacks on New York and Washington that killed around 3,000 people."

The newspaper's editorial, however, likened the pressure of terrorism to the feeling of Taiwan's people concerning the military power of China:

"As a result of the devastating Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the US, many established notions about terrorism were changed forever. In view of this, President Chen Shui-bian delivered a speech on the eve of the attacks' anniversary that provided food for thought about the concept of 'terrorism.'

"Contrary to reports, Chen did not equate Chinese threats against Taiwan with 'terrorism.' What he said was that the threat 'by its nature is very similar to terrorist attack.' Indeed, the fear instigated by a sense of uncertainty about when and how a Chinese attack on Taiwan might take place is perhaps the greatest similarity between the two types of threats. It is probably hard for people in most other parts of the world to know what it feels like to live day after day, knowing that not only are there more than 400 ballistic missiles targeted at your nation, but that your giant neighbor is out to get you -- sooner or later, one way or the other. Those who do live under the shadow of terrorism may understand."

The China Post

The China Post began publication in 1952 and is Taiwan's leading English-language newspaper. The newspaper's lead story (from Reuters and the Associated Press) was the call by the U.S. government for Americans to be vigilant on the anniversary of the attacks. The second story (by Amber Wang) featured on the paper's website focused on a speech by Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian. Chen called on Beijing to renounce the use of force against Taiwan.

"On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the United States, President Chen Shui-bian urged mainland China to renounce its armed threats against Taiwan, saying Beijing's military intimidation is similar to the menace posed by terrorists....

"Speaking of the security and stability of the Asian Pacific region, Chen stressed that 'democracy,''economy' and 'safety'are the three pillars of peace and prosperity as well as the best weapons against terrorism.

"'Taiwan should reevaluate its anti-terrorism efforts as well as the situation across the Taiwan Strait based on an overall strategy of promoting democracy, developing the economy and reinforcing safety.'"

"The president went on to draw a parallel between mainland China's military threat against Taiwan and a terrorist attack.

"The Chinese communists have made plans to attack Taiwan without prior warning by employing its fifth column, missiles, CBR (chemical, biological and radiological) weapons, Chen said. He added Beijing may conduct cyber warfare or unrestricted warfare to destroy Taiwan's political, economic and financial centers.

"Mainland China's missile threat to Taiwan has already surpassed that of a terrorism attack, Chen said, referring to an estimated 400 ballistic missiles deployed along its shore targeting Taiwan. The number is on the rise with 50 additional missiles being deployed annually."

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Published: Friday, October 4, 2002