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Poll: Australia against Taiwan war

Howard is a strong supporter of U.S. President George W. Bush.
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SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australians are against following the United States into a war with China over Taiwan, according to a new poll on Australian attitudes.

But the same number who oppose involvement in such a war -- 72 percent -- think Australia's alliance with the United States is important for Australia's security.

Australians generally have a more positive view of China (69 percent) than they do of the United States (58 percent), according to the poll conducted by a Sydney-based think tank, the Lowy Institute For International Policy.

Asked to respond to the statement "Australia should act in accordance with our security alliance with the United States, even if it means following them to war with China over the independence of Taiwan", 21 percent agreed, 72 percent disagreed and 7 percent could not choose.

Last year, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer caused a stir when he said that Australia would not automatically join U.S. forces in defending Taiwan from Chinese military action.

Downer later said the question was "entirely hypothetical" and no Australian government had ever said what it would do in those circumstances.

After China earlier this month passed an anti-secession law authorizing the use of force against Taiwan should it push for independence, Downer said Australia was bound to consult with the United States under its ANZUS treaty alliance.

"But that's a very different thing from saying we would make a decision to go to war," Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Under Prime Minister John Howard, Australia has been a strong supporter of the United States in its war on terror, and has sent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq in support of the U.S.-led operations there.

But the Lowy Institute survey found 51 percent of respondents oppose Australia's continued involvement in Iraq, with 46 percent in favor.

Among countries viewed in positive terms by Australians, the United States with 58 percent ranks below countries such as New Zealand (94 percent), the United Kingdom (86 percent), Japan (84 percent), Singapore (83 percent), China (69 percent) and France (66 percent).

Indonesia scores 52 percent, reflecting the difficult relationship Australia has sometimes had with its northern neighbor, despite the outpouring of Australian support after the December 26 earthquake and tsunami which devastated Indonesia's Aceh province.

According to the poll, based on a sample of 1000 Australians taken in early February -- before China passed its anti-secession law -- Australians have a generally positive view about the country's relations with China.

Only 35 percent are worried about China's rising power and a majority of Australians -- 51 percent -- think a free trade agreement with China would be good for Australia.

China is a big buyer of Australian commodities to fuel its economic growth and is Australia's fastest growing export market.

On relations with the United States, 68 percent of Australians think "we take too much notice of the views of the United States", while 29 percent think Australia takes the "right amount of notice".

The international issues of most concern to Australians are "unfriendly countries developing nuclear weapons" (71 percent worried), followed by global warming (70 percent), international terrorism (63 percent) and international disease epidemics (61 percent).

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