Bush in Asia, seeks support for anti-terror campaign; also ready to talk trade
SHANGHAI, China (AP) – President Bush met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Friday, hoping to strengthen Beijing’s position in the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition and stem concern in Asia about U.S. military strikes against Afghanistan.
The two leaders greeted each other warmly in their first-ever meeting. Bush used to call China a ”strategic competitor” during last year’s presidential campaign but now the United States is making a determined effort to improve relations.
Some nations gathering for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit said they hoped U.S. attacks would end soon, exposing a possible split with Bush who says the strikes could last one or two years.
The president arrived in this gleaming port city Thursday evening and was greeted briefly at the airport by Chinese officials. A young girl gave him a bouquet of yellow roses and bluebonnets, symbols of his Texas roots.
The presidential motorcade whipped along clean, empty streets, past brightly lit skyscrapers and Western retail outlets, to his hotel where Bush immediately retired for the night.
On the 13-hour flight to China, Bush met at length with aides aboard Air Force One to prepare for his meeting with Jiang. Already well versed on the terrorism situation, Bush talked mostly about trade and economics, according to participants.
China condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and quickly offered anti-terrorism intelligence to the United States. But the Chinese have cautioned Bush that their support of the bombing campaign depends on the United States limiting casualties to only terrorists.
Beijing’s leaders are reluctant to back military intervention in other nations, concerned about setting a precedent for outside action over China’s own restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.
Advisers said Bush, in his meeting with Jiang, would discuss the terrorism campaign as well as China’s human rights record and history of selling sensitive nuclear technology to other countries.
”The president looks forward to his discussions with the president of China as a way to strengthen cooperation – particularly in the area of trade – and looks forward to bringing up issues where there are differences, such as human rights and on proliferation matters,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
While Bush crossed the Pacific Ocean, APEC ministers completed a draft resolution putting the organization on record against terrorism in a ”fight between justice and evil.”
But the document, set to be approved by Bush and 20 other APEC leaders this weekend, avoided any mention of the U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan or the key suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States – Saudi exile Osama bin Laden. It was a minor setback for Bush, a reminder that some Asian countries are wary of U.S. military action.
The absence in the draft of any reference to the bombing campaign reflected the influence of Indonesia and Malaysia, both predominantly Muslim members of APEC, delegates said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell praised APEC’s ministers for the anti-terrorism statement but said some Asian countries have expressed ”the hope that it (the campaign) will be concluded soon.”
Bush’s first international trip since the attacks in New York and Washington is drawing extraordinary security. Air space was restricted over Shanghai, and 10,000 police officers were guarding the streets. Boats patrolled the city’s busy waterways.
The APEC meeting begins Saturday. Bush meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday.
The president left behind a nation and its capital in the throes of an Anthrax scare. Senators filtered back to work, but their offices were closed for the weekend, as was the House.
At the White House, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge sought to calm the public by saying a handful of people have been infected with anthrax out of ”thousands and thousands” tested so far. And the U.S. military bombed Afghanistan for a 12th day.
Despite the worries at home, Bush made the abbreviated trip to underscore the importance he places on Asia – home to some of the world’s hottest potential flashpoints.
Trade with Asia is increasingly important to the slumping U.S. economy.
Though this is their first face-to-face meeting, Bush and Jiang have talked twice by telephone since the attacks. Bush had refused to talk to his Chinese counterpart during the tense standoff over a U.S. surveillance plane that crashed last spring.
U.S. officials hope that countries such as China and Russia can find common ground with the United States in the fight against terrorism, leading to better relations more generally.
China’s leaders hope that Bush’s anti-terrorism crackdown will give them a freer hand to deal with internal strife. After Putin jumped to Bush’s aid Sept. 11, the Bush administration abruptly said there is some terrorist involvement on behalf of Chechnyan rebels in Russia.
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