Malaysia ruler: Australia "pre-emptive action" will be "act of war"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Wed Dec 4 05:56:35 MST 2002



http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/international.cfm?id=1348602002

The Scotsman
December 4, 2002

Malaysian warning reflects Asia's growing anger with
Australia
TIM CORNWELL DEPUTY FOREIGN EDITOR

-"If they used rockets or pilotless aircraft to carry
out assassination, then we will consider this as an
act of war and we will take action according to our
laws to protect the sovereignty and independence of
our country."

George Bush, the US president, has embraced a
doctrine of pre-emptive action, including targeted
killings. Last month, a US missile strike in Yemen
killed an alleged al-Qaeda leader. The White House
spokesman, Ari Fleischer, yesterday called Australia
"a stalwart ally" and said Mr Bush "of course supports
pre-emptive action".


MALAYSIA's prime minister yesterday warned Australia
that any pre-emptive strikes at terrorists on its soil
would be treated as an "act of war".

Mahathir Mohamad's angry remarks reflected a growing
diplomatic uproar over comments by the Australian
prime minister, John Howard, that he would consider
pre-emptive strikes against terrorists in neighbouring
countries.

In the latest indication that Australia is a terror
target, a Singaporean newspaper reported yesterday
that Islamist extremists of the Jemaah Islamiah group
had trained a team to attack the 2000 Sydney Olympics.


But Mr Howard's stance has revived charges that
Australia is the United States' handmaiden in Asia -
or harbours ambitions of its own to be the region?s
military strong man.

Mr Howard heads a country still reeling from the
October bomb attack that killed 90 Australians in
Bali, and groping for how to respond.

Jemaah Islamiah is blamed for that attack.

Mr Howard has called for a change in the UN founding
charter to allow member states to launch pre-emptive,
anti-terrorism strikes on foreign soil in the name of
self-defence.

In a weekend interview with Australian television, he
said it stood to reason that "if you believe that
somebody was going to launch an attack on your
country" and there was no other way to stop it, then
force could be used.

"Any Australian prime minister unwilling to do that
would be failing the most basic test," he added later.


His comments may have seemed mild, but a string of
Asian countries, from the Philippines to Thailand,
reacted with outrage.

Relations were already at a low ebb. Last week, the
Malaysian trade minister quarrelled with Australian
airport security personnel who tried to use sniffer
dogs to check her luggage. Dogs were unclean in Muslim
law, she said.

The Philippines has been angered by Australia's
decision to close its Manila embassy, citing security
reasons.

Mr Mahathir is regarded as a moderate Muslim leader of
his mostly Muslim country, which has a defence
alliance with Australia along with Singapore, Britain
and New Zealand. But he may have been playing to the
domestic audience when he questioned if Australia was
truly part of Asia. "If they used rockets or pilotless
aircraft to carry out assassination, then we will
consider this as an act of war and we will take action
according to our laws to protect the sovereignty and
independence of our country."

George Bush, the US president, has embraced a doctrine
of pre-emptive action, including targeted killings.
Last month, a US missile strike in Yemen killed an
alleged al-Qaeda leader. The White House spokesman,
Ari Fleischer, yesterday called Australia "a stalwart
ally" and said Mr Bush "of course supports pre-emptive
action".

Australia's image in Asia has been hit by its tough
stand on would-be immigrants, with right-wingers
warning that its Anglo-Saxon identity risked being
"swamped by Asians".





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