TOKYO, Sept. 11 -- Asian leaders were united Tuesday in their condemnation of the attacks on the United States and offered condolences to the families of the victims.
In Japan, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi held an emergency meeting with key Cabinet members around midnight, and also called President Bush to express his condolences about terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
In his message to Bush, Koizumi said he was "shocked," and called the attacks "cowardly acts of violence," adding that "this sort of terrorism will never be forgiven."
"On behalf of the people of Japan, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the President of the United States of America and to the American people."
U.S. military bases in Japan were placed on highest alert, with entry restricted to essential personnel. American schools and the U.S. Embassy were closed, and U.S. civilians were advised to institute heightened security measures.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said his country will do whatever it can to support the United States against acts of terrorism.
Fukuda conveyed his comments about "evil, callous" acts to reporters at an emergency news conference at 1 a.m. Tuesday.
Japanese Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani, who is on an official visit to Indonesia, ordered a state of heightened alert for all of Japan's Self-Defense Forces and increased security measures around U.S. military bases in Japan, the Kyodo News agency reported from Jakarta.
Nakatani will cancel a planned visit to East Timor and return to Tokyo, the news service said.
News of the attacks first reached Tokyo around 10 p.m. local time Tuesday, the peak hour for nightly news.
"The United States appears to be under attack," said Hiroshi Kume, one of Japan's most prominent news anchors. "The country seems to be falling apart."
Tokyo TV networks began continuous coverage of the attacks shortly after the first plane crashed into World Trade Center and it continued overnight.
More than two-dozen Japanese financial institutions, including such powerhouses as Dai-ichi Kangyo Bank and Fuki Bank, have offices in the World Trade Center. An unknown number of Japanese citizens may have died as the twin towers caught fire and collapsed.
Japan itself has not been immune to terrorist attacks. In 1995, the Tokyo subway lines were attacked by a religious cult that released deadly gas during peak rush hour, killing nearly 20 people and sickening hundreds of commuters.
In China, President Jiang Zemin sent a message of support to President Bush, expressing sincere condolences following what he called "disastrous attacks causing severe casualties," the state news agency Xinhua reported.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said China was "deeply shocked" by the tragic events taking place in the United States, and strongly condemned the acts of terrorism. Xinhua also said Jiang expressed "grave concern" for the well being of Chinese citizens in the United States. It is believed that a number of Chinese citizens working in the World Trade Center buildings or visiting the trade complex at the time of the attack may have been injured or killed.
In South Korea, President Kim Dae-jung ordered the military and policy to enter an emergency state to protect U.S. facilities in the country.
The United States has 37,000 troops in South Korea to defend it from potential conflict with communist North Korea.
Kim said he would convene an emergency meeting of the National Security Council Wednesday to consider the situation and its impact on the Korean peninsula.
He sent a message of condolence to President Bush and strongly blamed the terrorists attacks, said presidential spokesman Park Joon-young.
"The Korean people and government are shocked by the horrible terrorism in the United States. Today will be remembered as a very unhappy day for all the people in the world who love peace," the message said.
The South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command said it had been placed under "Force Protection Condition D," the highest level of anti-terrorist alert. Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin launched a task force to address the situation.
A government official said the domestic stock markets might be temporarily closed.
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has vehemently condemned Tuesday's attacks and called upon the international community to redouble its efforts to combat terrorism.
Kumaratunga, herself a victim of terrorism, having lost her right eye in an assassination attempt by the separatist Tamil Tiger guerrillas, said in a message to President Bush that Sri Lanka shared the anguish of the American people fully and "unreservedly condemned the dastardly attack."
"These attacks once again highlight the need for concerted action by the international community for suppressing terrorism," she said.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad canceled a planned trip to Britain following the attacks on New York and Washington, telling reporters in Malaysia that he was worried of possible retaliatory strikes by the United States and counter-strikes.
"Of course America will retaliate," he said, noting that the "retaliation will lead to the deaths of many people, and will be followed by counter-strikes," the state-owned Bernama news agency quoted him as saying.
Police were immediately deployed at the U.S. Embassy and other American installations in the country. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange and the Malaysia Derivatives Exchange will be closed on Wednesday.
Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian and Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong sent messages of condolences to Bush. The Taiwanese cabinet held an emergency meeting, deciding to suspend trading on the stock, currency and futures exchanges in Taiwan following the attack on the World Trade Center in New York in a bid to maintain "investor calm," local media reported.
In India, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called an emergency security meeting, while Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said he was "sickened beyond words" upon hearing the news.
Singh called the attacks a "crime against humanity" and demanded international condemnation of the terrorists.
In neighboring Pakistan, military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf sent a message to Bush condemning the "brutal, horrible acts of terror and violence" and stating "the world must unite to fight against terrorism in all its forms, and root out this modern-day evil."
Some reports in Washington indicate that Saudi-born international terrorist Osama bin Laden, thought to be in hiding in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, is one of the suspects thought to be behind the attacks.
Pakistan is one of only three countries -- the others being Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- to have recognized the Taliban regime.
Security measures were stepped up at U.S. embassies and consulates across Asia, from Istanbul to Tokyo, with many missions closing their doors to the public as a precaution. The U.S. embassies in Tokyo; Kuwait; Muscat, Oman; Sana'a, Yemen; Abu Dhabi, UAE and other locations would be closed to the public Wednesday, and possibly for a longer period as security is evaluated.
The Turkish Anatolian news agency said security measures were stepped up around the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, where the flag was flying at half-staff, while the NATO air base at Incirlik in southern Turkey was at "the highest alert level."
Security around U.S. missions and other offices across India has been beefed up too. Additional troops are patrolling the streets around the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and consulates in other major Indian cities. Police sources say a special air vigil is being maintained around the U.S. installations in India.
All U.S. and Asian airlines cancelled flights to the United States until further notice, and aircraft flying to the United States across the Pacific Ocean at the time of the attacks were diverted to Canada or returned to their original departure points.
Pakistan International cancelled its westbound flights across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, while Air India said its New York-bound flights from New Delhi and Mumbai would not continue beyond London.