Bush wins Asian support on terror, but gets nowhere in Chinese currency dispute
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP): President George W. Bush scored a win in persuading Pacific Rim partners to boost the war on terror but ran into resistance over another key goal Sunday as China defended currency policies that Washington claims are holding back the U.S. economy and throwing Americans out of work.
Ahead of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, leaders also seemed divided over how to resolve the crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions. Bush shrugged off Pyongyang's accusations of a U.S. invasion plot and said its demand for a nonaggression treaty with Washington "is off the table.''
"I've said as plainly as I can say that we have no intention of invading North Korea,'' Bush said. "And I've also said as plainly as I can say that we expect North Korea to get rid of her nuclear weapons ambitions.''
North Korea said Sunday the APEC forum is not the place to discuss the crisis, saying it should "be resolved between us and the United States.''
While terror and the Korean standoff have been brought to the forefront of APEC, the value of China's yuan has emerged as a major economic dispute looming over the annual summit running Monday and Tuesday.
China is accused of artificially and unfairly keeping the yuan pegged low against the U.S. dollar to boost its economic performance. On a stopover in Tokyo last week, Bush also failed to convince Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to let the yen rise.
At a conference of business executives, Chinese President Hu Jintao was unapologetic, saying "frictions'' are to be expected while his economy grows rapidly into a powerhouse. Beijing, he boasted, is promoting economic stability not only in Asia, but around the world.
Bush and Hu were to meet privately Sunday ahead of the summit, which is being held under unprecedented security that has shut down much of the normally frenetic Thai capital. VIP planes arrived with fighter jet escorts at the airport guarded by armored cars. Motorcades zipped through unusually deserted streets, shadowed by low-flying helicopters.
Shadowy terror threats added to the leaders' worries. In a new audiotape, a voice purported to be that of Osama bin Laden vowed suicide attacks and threatened nations helping the American occupation of Iraq. Britain, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy were singled out.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who took an early morning walk in a park surrounded by undercover guards and police on horses, said terrorism remains a global threat. Bush agreed: "The bin Laden tape should say to everybody the war on terror goes on, that there's still a danger to free nations.''
As well as guarding against terror threats at the summit, host Thailand has taken tough action to prevent the kind of violent demonstrations that have marred other international trade conferences. About 22,000 police and troops have been deployed. Known anti-globalization and anti-Iraq war protesters have been blacklisted from entering the country.
In a rare display of dissent, about 1,000 demonstrators rallied on a Bangkok university campus calling Bush "the world's real terrorist.'' One man was arrested.
When they meet Monday and Tuesday, the APEC leaders from 21 countries and economies will pledge to "dismantle'' cross-border terror groups, according to a draft communique obtained by The Associated Press.
The stronger stance on terror -- promoted by Bush -- however, has upset some APEC members who want the group to stick to its stated mission of improving economies, including the establishment of a free trade and investment zone -- by 2010 for developed members and by 2020 for developing members.
The Asian and Pacific leaders are urging the World Trade Organization to get back on track by restarting talks on a new global commerce agreement that was thrown off balance when a recent series of negotiations collapsed in the Mexican resort of Cancun.
Other concerns include developing a better-coordinated defense against any repeat of SARS, other infectious diseases or bioterrorism attacks.