Bush gets cautious nod on U.S. military action from China

SHANGHAI, China -- Cautioned by China to spare innocent civilians in Afghanistan attacks, President Bush urged wavering Asian nations to support America's campaign against terrorism. He faced resistance Saturday from Malaysia, whose leader wants the United States to stop bombing Afghanistan.

On the eve of an economic summit here, the president declared, "All civilized nations must join together to defeat this threat."

Bush met Chinese President Jiang Zemin for the first time Friday and praised him for sharing intelligence on terrorists' activities and helping to cut off financing to their organizations. The Chinese leader, in turn, cautioned Bush about U.S. military strikes against the terrorist-harboring Taliban.

"We hope that anti-terrorism efforts can have clearly defined targets. And efforts should hit accurately and also avoid innocent casualties," Jiang said at a joint appearance with Bush.

The remarks reflected the sentiments of many leaders joining Bush at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, which formally opens Saturday. The APEC leaders are expected to approve a statement against terrorism without mentioning U.S. strikes on Afghanistan.

In what could be a ticklish session, Bush meets Saturday with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who recently denounced the Afghanistan raids. "We are against such an attack because I don't think it is going to help in combatting terrorism," Mahathir said.

U.S. officials believe the al-Qaida group of Osama bin Laden, the top suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, has been trying to build ties with Islamic militants in Malaysia.

One of the suspected suicide hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, was shown to be visiting Malaysia early this year, appearing on a surveillance videotape meeting with a suspected bin Laden associate.

Malaysia is one of three Muslim-dominated nations in APEC. Brunei and Indonesia are the others.

Bush also meets Saturday with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, who expressed sympathy with the United States after the attacks.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, in an Oval Office meeting with Bush after the attacks on Washington and New York, was one of the first foreign leaders to sign up for the anti-terrorism campaign. Upon her return home, under pressure from anti-U.S. political forces, she hardened her stance against bombing.

The Bush-Jiang meeting at a government guest house was conducted around a bed of 1,000 orange roses that separated the leaders by about eight feet. The divide reflected the distance in their personal relationship.

White House aides said the Bush-Jiang relationship, though improved by Friday's session, is not as warm as the one between Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bush described Putin after their introductory meeting as straightforward and trustworthy. On Friday, Bush did not talk about Jiang in personal terms.

Bush meets Putin on Sunday, capping three days of wartime diplomacy carried out halfway around the world from an American public rattled by anthrax threats.

Bush told reporters he did not know whether foreign or domestic terrorists are behind the anthrax cases. He pledged to prosecute people mailing powder as hoaxes.

"I leave my country at a very difficult time," Bush said. "But this meeting is important because of the campaign against terror" as well as issues of national ties and trade.

Bush was laying out his case against terrorism in an address Saturday to Asian business leaders. Advisers who worked on the text Friday said it would open with the observation that the attackers targeted a symbol of free enterprise when they struck the World Trade Center in New York.

His speech also outlines the economic successes in Asia -- 513 percent growth in the gross domestic product of China since 1975; Malaysia's literacy rate cut by two-thirds since 1975; Indonesia's infant mortality rate cut in half since 1980.

Bush planned to challenge APEC leaders: Show the world -- enemies and friends alike -- that economic progress will continue despite the efforts by terrorists to spread fear across the globe.

The president worked on the speech with aides after meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. He demanded that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il "prove his worth" and open talks with the United States.

In the Bush-Jiang session, neither man sidestepped their differences.

"The war on terrorism must never be an excuse to persecute minorities," Bush said, an apparent reference to China's treatment of the restive Muslim Uighur population in China's Xinjiang region.

Jiang predicted a bright future for U.S.-Chinese relations so long as the United States sticks to its agreements on Taiwan, an issue that has bedeviled ties off and on for more than 50 years.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment