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Asia Public Opinion Still Divided on War in Iraq - 2003-03-25


In Asia, new public opinion polls show shifting attitudes towards the war in Iraq and governments supporting the U.S. led coalition. In some countries, opposition to the conflict seems to be waning while others remain firmly opposed.

Iin Thailand a survey by the Suan Dusit Institute shows an overwhelming majority of the country's military officers are against the war. Nearly eighty percent of the officers asked said they object to the conflict because of what they see as the likelihood of high casualties. They also say they believe the United States should have pursued peaceful means to disarm Iraq. Only slightly more than 18 percent support the attempt to remove Saddam Hussein.

Thailand's military has considerable influence over the country; the army has been behind many of the 17 coups and coup attempts that have taken place since 1932.

In Taiwan, meanwhile, the China Times published a poll Tuesday showing that 37 percent of those surveyed oppose the war while 28 percent support it. But despite general disapproval of the war, the United States is still viewed favorably by Taiwanese, with 67 percent saying they have a good impression of it. Taiwan's government has not given a clear endorsement to the war but has promised to provide humanitarian aid to Iraq. Taiwan is expected to help pay some of the costs of reconstruction after the war.

In Japan, a new survey shows a significant shift in public attitudes, not specifically about the war but their government's support of the United States. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Japan in anti-war protests. And a number of recent polls show that anywhere from 59 to 68 percent of Japanese are opposed to the war. But a survey published Tuesday in the conservative Yomiuri newspaper shows 76 percent of those polled approve of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's support of the U.S. led war on Iraq.

Yomiuri attributed public backing of Mr. Koizumi's position to the intense efforts he has made over the past weeks to explain his belief that supporting the United States is in the Japan's interests. Japan's constitution prohibits it from contributing troops to the U.S.-led military coalition, but Tokyo has sent doctors to the region to provide medical assistance to refugees.

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