Several East Asian countries are on high alert for a possible al-Qaeda backlash in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death. The aim is to protect potential targets associated with America and its friends.
However, political nuances, too, are in evidence. East Asia is home not only to the well-known U.S. allies like Japan and Australia. Singapore and Thailand are known for their often-close links to the U.S., while Malaysia and Indonesia are two proactive members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).
The leaders of Japan and Australia expressed their solidarity with both Washington and Islamabad.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in Tokyo his country “pays respect for the efforts of those parties concerned, such as the United States and Pakistan,” in the killing of bin Laden. Emphasising that his death would not spell the end of history in the domain of “counter-terror measures,” Mr. Kan announced the strengthening of “precautionary security measures … at borders.” Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard pledged to “continue mission in Afghanistan” as a U.S. ally. Though several Australian lives were already lost, “that work is vital.”
Within the OIC-linked segment of East Asia, both Malaysia and Indonesia sounded a security alert though they differed on al-Qaeda's attitude towards them.
A Malaysian Minister said his country had “never been a target” in the eyes of al-Qaeda. There were “no real concerns” on this score even now, and Malaysia itself had “never been a breeding ground [for terrorists].” However, the “porous” nature of national borders in the present globalised world could not be ignored, he said in justification of the heightened security alert now. At the same time, he would like the world to seek an “understanding of the root causes” of terrorism.
Indonesia, in recent years a theatre of al Qaeda-inspired and local militancy, struck a posture of security preparedness. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, known already for his anti-terror activism, reaffirmed commitment to carry such an agenda forward. An Indonesian terror suspect Umar Patek, arrested in Pakistan a few weeks ago, was said to have gone there to meet Osama.
Singapore, now savouring a general election campaign, was the first Southeast Asian country to have alerted the world to the existence of Jemaah Islamiyah as a suspected regional affiliate of al-Qaeda. The City-State's first reaction to Osama's death was to emphasise the need for “continued vigilance and cooperation by all countries" against the “complex and long-term challenges [of] terrorism and the ideologies that perpetuate it.”