Published January 21, 2004
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea (search) cautiously welcomed President Bush's (search) warning to "the world's most dangerous regimes" Wednesday, calling it a signal for North Korea to resume talks on its nuclear weapons programs.
Other nations applauded the president's pledge to confront "the regimes that harbor and support terrorists."
Bush singled out North Korea and Iran on the nuclear issue during his State of the Union (search) address Tuesday, pledging "America is committed to keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous regimes."
South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the wording underlined Washington's consistent hard-line stand against weapons of mass destruction, and Bush has not dramatically changed his stance since he branded those countries, along with Iraq, two years ago as forming an "axis of evil."
In Japan, parts of Bush's speech were carried live on television. News reports led with his defense of the war in Iraq and support for Libya's cooperation on nuclear programs.
But there were no indications that any of China's television stations, which are all government-controlled, carried the speech live.
South Korea applauded Bush for contrasting their case with that of Iraq, toppled by a U.S.-led invasion. Bush underlined that "different threats require different strategies."
"The U.S. president clearly sent a message that North Korea should come out to negotiate and not ignore the nuclear issue," ministry spokesman Shin Bong-kil said.
Americans officials accuse North Korea of running a secret nuclear program. International talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear programs have fizzled.
But many South Koreans consider the North a misguided cousin that needs coaxing to open up, not a looming threat.
"The United States itself is the most dangerous regimes in the world," said Sunnyo Shin, a 33-year-old unemployed office worker. "Rather than bringing freedom to the Iraqi people, the United States is infringing on their sovereignty."
On the war on terror, the Foreign Ministry's Shin agreed with Bush's assessment it was wrong to believe the danger of terrorism had passed even though it has been more than two years since America was attacked.
Shin also welcomed Bush's salute to allies helping rebuild Iraq, noting Seoul's plans to send 3,000 troops in a mission making South Korea the second biggest coalition partner after the United States and Britain.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, a group of Indonesians were invited to view Bush's address at the U.S. Embassy and engage U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce in a question-and-answer session afterward.
"I think (the speech) was very good and very good for a second term for Bush," said Putu Antara, a 64-year-old banker from Bali, where Oct. 12, 2002, nightclub bombings killed 202 people. "As a Balinese man, I was happy to hear about what he (Bush) said about terrorism."