TOKYO – Strong U.S. allies Australia and Japan praised Washington's latest moves on Iraq, with Canberra welcoming President Bush's pledge to stay in the country until it is democratic and Tokyo commending moves to seek a U.N. mandate for international troops there.
China urged the early establishment of a new Iraq with "political sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity," but said it too supported the U.S.-British draft resolution (search) on post-occupation Iraq introduced Monday to the U.N. Security Council.
The resolution authorizes a U.S.-led multinational force to maintain security using "all necessary measures." A key issue is whether sovereignty would really be restored after the June 30 handover of power.
Later Monday in a nationally televised address, Bush outlined his vision for Iraq following the planned handover of sovereignty to its people next month.
Chinese Foreign Minister spokesman Liu Jianchao said his government will take part in U.N. consideration of the resolution "with a positive and constructive attitude." He said Beijing had submitted a proposal outlining the Chinese position, including the need to improve the security of Iraq and restore peace at an early date.
Liu also said it was "too premature" to discuss whether China would contribute troops to the U.S.-led multinational force.
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard (search) said he welcomed the Bush's pledge, adding that Australian troops would remain in Iraq even though opinion polls showed support for the deployment was slipping.
Australia sent 2,000 troops to take part in the invasion of Iraq and still has 850 military personnel in and around the country.
"This government has absolutely no intention of altering our position in relation to being part of the coalition in Iraq," Howard told parliament. "We did not enter the coalition on the basis of opinion polls last year ... and we have absolutely no intention on the basis of opinion polls of altering our position at the present time."
Japan welcomed the draft resolution and said it looked forward to cooperating with other countries to help rebuild Iraq. It made no mention of sending more troops.
"We hope a new resolution will be adopted to guarantee the reconstruction of Iraq by Iraqis," Hosoda said. "We would like to work closely with other countries."
Tokyo has long advocated more U.N. involvement in Iraq, which would lift public backing for Tokyo's dispatch of troops to the southern part of the country.
Japan has sent about 550 ground troops to Iraq and hundreds more air and naval forces to the region on a humanitarian mission to support the U.S.-led coalition.
The United States and Britain will need to negotiate with longtime critics of the Iraq war, such as France and Germany, on the resolution. Both Paris and Berlin are demanding a greater role for Iraq's interim government in security issues.
Japanese and South Korean media, meanwhile, said Bush's speech appeared aimed at bolstering support both at home and abroad after the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib (search).
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said in an analysis piece that Bush's proposal to demolish Abu Ghraib prison could be interpreted as a "political show" and said it was unclear how much this would help repair impressions of U.S. soldiers.
Japan's public broadcaster said the plan to destroy the prison appeared to be part of an effort to improve America's image in the wake of the abuses of Iraqi inmates by U.S. soldiers at the facility.
Bush said the prison that was a symbol of death and torture under Saddam Hussein "became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values."
He said the United States would pay to demolish the prison and build a new one.
South Korea already has 600 military medics and engineers in Iraq.
It decided earlier this year to send 3,600 South Korean troops to replace them as early as April, but the mission has been twice delayed and the government does not know when and where in Iraq they will be stationed. Many South Koreans oppose the plan because of growing violence there.