US elections - viewed from Asia
Asian press slams "reckless" Bush, but doubts Kerry offers real change
HONG KONG, (AFP) - President George W. Bush was the target of scathing criticism from Asian newspapers, which accused him of pursuing a reckless and divisive foreign policy but doubted much would change even if John Kerry ousted him in the presidential election.
In Thailand the respected business daily Krungthep Thurakit warned of dire consequences for the world if Bush was re-elected, saying "international politics will be in more turmoil than (during) his first term as it means Americans agree with his foreign policy".
The Thai-language newspaper forecast Bush might next invade North Korea or Iran. "In this presidential election most of the world's population votes for Kerry due to his promise for a softer approach on international politics," it said.
The Malay-language Utusan in mostly Muslim Malaysia launched an even more fierce attack on the incumbent leader.
"Bush has created a world of chaos, a world split into two. Bush has divided Muslims and the non-Muslims," it said.
"Are Americans happy to see their president hated and condemned by the world? They no longer travel or move freely, and are treated warily in certain countries. Their safety and their lives remain threatened.
But, like several newspapers around the region, it took a generally cynical view on the election, suggesting that whoever emerges victorious, US foreign policy is unlikely to change much.
"Whoever wins or loses, it will not make much of a difference to the global community. Even though Bush and Kerry have different approaches, we must not hope that the chaotic global scenario will change in the blink of an eye. Even if Kerry is picked, US policies will remain the same," said Utusan.
Hong Kong's leading English-language daily, the South China Morning Post, said Bush had pursued a reckless war in Iraq, polarised opinion of the US, weakened world organisations and ham-fistedly launched a war on terror that has actually made the world a more dangerous place.
If Bush won, it said, the "US would continue with the 'with us or against us' approach that has done so much damage to its standing in the world".
It is no more flattering of the Democratic challenger, describing Kerry as an untested and indecisive potential leader with protectionist tendencies that wouldn't sit well with China.
In Sydney, the nation's favourite horse race, the Melbourne Cup, drew most attention from newspaper leader writers, but Australia's Sydney Morning Herald diverted its gaze towards the likely photo-finish in the US.
The Bush administration's determination to maintain America's global military reliance, even without allied support, had given rise to an "anyone but Bush" sentiment in many areas, not just the hostile Muslim world, it said.
It stopped short of endorsing any candidate, noting a Kerry victory would lower the "bilateral bonhomie" currently enjoyed between conservative governments in Washington and Canberra but would not change the fundamental relationship.
"Whoever wins today, Australia remains a firm ally," it said.
Bush was given some respite in the Philippines, a former US colony, where the Manila Bulletin enthusiastically backed the Republican.
"As we wait for the verdict of the American electorate, we are certain that the victor will place America continually on the side of justice, equality, peace, and democracy -- values that we share with the United States and have collectively fought for in the past and the foreseeable future."
The Philippine Daily Inquirer begged to differ, carrying the headline: "No beating around the Bush: Pinoy (Filipino) hearts beat for Kerry."
English-language daily The Japan Times said the world was "holding its collective breath" over the dead-heat race.
Kerry's philosophy "emphasizes the importance of rebuilding alliance relationships to make America stronger and safer", the paper said.
In Seoul, the English-language Korea Times said in an editorial said a Kerry victory would better help resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff.
"Despite the rhetoric of diplomats, the Seoul-Washington relationship has worsened and the tension between North Korea and the US has grown over the past four years.
"Although a Kerry victory would not completely reverse the situation, Seoul could at least expect a more flexible and compromising ally," it said.