BANGKOK, Thailand – China and several other Asian nations announced Monday that they have started pulling out diplomats from Baghdad, preparing for a U.S.-led war on Iraq that most in Asia have opposed.
Beijing has decided to evacuate all nonessential staff from its embassy, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhang Qiyue said Monday, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.
China — Asia's only permanent member of the U.N. Security Council — has advocated a diplomatic solution to the standoff between Washington and Baghdad, saying an Iraq war would harm the global economy and should be avoided if possible.
Beijing also demanded more time for U.N. weapons inspectors to look for weapons of mass destruction.
China has bitter memories of the last U.S.-led attack on what Washington had labeled a "rogue state." In 1999, three Chinese were killed when NATO warplanes mistakenly bombed its embassy in Belgrade, the capital of then-Yugoslavia.
Pakistan — a key U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism — also pulled nonessential staff and officials' families out of its Baghdad embassy "because of the prevailing situation," the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said Monday, adding that the ambassador would remain.
Pakistan has issued calls for avoiding war in Iraq and urged Baghdad to cooperate with U.N. arms inspectors.
Malaysia's Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar ordered all family members of its diplomats evacuated from Iraq on Monday.
Eight embassy officials and more than 200 Malaysian students remaining in Baghdad also will leave if war breaks out, Syed was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.
Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country of 23 million people, has been one of Asia's staunchest opponents of a war in Iraq.
India has reduced the staff at its embassy in Baghdad, the Foreign Ministry said without elaborating.
Several Asian states said they already had sent embassy staff to the safety of neighboring Jordan.
South Korea's sole diplomat in Iraq has been evacuated to Amman but regularly visits Baghdad, Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Seok-woo said in Seoul. The ministry has urged South Koreans in the Middle East to leave, Kim said.
Japan's embassy in Baghdad has been closed since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and its diplomatic work with Iraq also is conducted from Jordan.
Thailand has moved most of its embassy staff to Amman, "with a skeleton staff in Baghdad, mostly local staffers," Thai Foreign Ministry Spokesman Sihasak Phuanketkeow said Monday.