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Asian Leaders Welcome Bush Re-election for Continuity


Asian leaders have welcomed President Bush's re-election, expecting progress on the North Korean nuclear dispute, terrorism and economic stability.

The Australian government, President Bush's staunchest supporter in the region and on Iraqi policy, says it looks forward to further strengthening its relations with America.

"From our point of view, the Bush administration is a known quantity," said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer who was speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We've had a very good relationship with them for the last four years and I'm sure we'll be able to keep building on that over the next four."

Security tops Australia's concerns and Mr. Downer says the United States must continue its anti-terrorism involvement in Southeast Asia against the Indonesian-based terror network, Jemaah Islamiyah.

Indonesia, the nation with the world's largest Muslim population, also officially congratulated President Bush and urged closer security cooperation. But Muslim leaders there expressed anxiety over a second Bush term.

Din Syamsuddin, the head of the influential Indonesian Council of Ulamas, says he hopes America's leadership would be more sensitive to the Muslim people, especially in the war on terrorism, which, to date, has focused only on Islamic militant groups. But he fears that with President Bush in power, the Muslim world will only feel more alienated from America.

"He [Bush] will conduct war on terror, in more oppressive, repressive and terrorizing way by destroying the Muslim countries as he did to Afghanistan and Iraq," said Mr. Syamsuddin.

South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon says he hopes that with the U.S. election over, North Korea would return to negotiations on its nuclear weapons programs and "make bolder decisions" to end them. Pyongyang has been seen as delaying talking substance until it was clear who was going to lead America for the next four years.

Mr. Ban says he expects Mr. Bush to step up efforts to disarm North Korea. Seoul also expressed hope that Washington would secure wider involvement from the international community in the process.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi - who expressed a preference for Mr. Bush before the election - says the strong Tokyo-Washington alliance will remain in tact. Mr. Koizumi says Mr. Bush will continue to emphasize Japan and their trusted relationship in his second term.

But Tokyo also urged the United States to deal with its trade and budget deficits, which it says, "pose uncertainty" to the global economy.

In a statement Thursday, Chinese President Hu Jintao says he looks forward to continued work with the United States in promoting peace and development in the Asia-Pacific region.

Relations were ruffled on the eve of the election when former foreign minister Qian Qichen published an essay harshly criticizing President Bush and what he called his unilateralist policies in Iraq and on terrorism. The two countries face differences on Taiwan, human rights and economic issues, but both are also working together to resolve the North Korean nuclear dispute and have partnered on terrorism issues.

The leaders of Taiwan and the Philippines also welcomed President Bush's victory.

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