Archive for Monday, October 28, 2002

Bush efforts yield little at summit

October 28, 2002

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— A weekend of urgent diplomacy produced some modest gains for President Bush, although he left this sports-fishing resort Sunday with a string of disappointments in his bid to disarm North Korea and Iraq.

The two-day Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum yielded the United States a show of unity against North Korea's nuclear weapons program, a fresh round of promises to combat terrorism and a valuable opportunity to lobby 21 Asian leaders on Iraq.

But Bush's toughest challenges went unmet.

Many Asian leaders still reject Bush's zero-tolerance approach to Iraq, and administration officials grimly acknowledged that a strong U.N. resolution to force Saddam Hussein to disarm may elude them this week.

South Korea and Japan still oppose Bush's isolation policy for North Korea.

U.S. officials still have reason to question the commitment of Muslim-dominated Pacific Rim nations to the war against terrorism.

And APEC, created by the first Bush administration to liberalize trade, became a forum for Asian leaders to accuse the second Bush White House of protectionist practices such as agricultural subsidies.

A joint declaration issued by the APEC countries called for the abolition of farm subsidies that protect individual nations' farmers from the pressures of the international market. Many nations, including Mexico, have criticized the United States, European countries and Japan for such protectionism.

The weekend got off to a shaky start when Bush, a stickler for punctuality, was forced to cool his heels for 30 minutes while Chinese President Jiang Zemin arrived late for Friday talks at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch.

"We could be fishing," Bush said probably not the last time he muttered the phrase over the weekend.

After more than an hour of talks, Jiang handed Bush a diplomatic success in the campaign to rid North Korea of its recently disclosed nuclear weapons program.

"We Chinese always hold the position that the Korean Peninsula should be nuclear weapon-free," Jiang said.

But the Chinese leader failed to deliver a stern condemnation of North Korea's actions. U.S. officials said they expect to endure weeks of negotiations before Beijing might be ready to play a more forceful role.

It didn't get much better for Bush at APEC. At the summit's conclusion, Mexican President Vicente Fox did not even mention North Korea when he read a summary of the communique with Bush and other leaders at his side.

The leaders pledged to take "concrete steps" to curb terrorism, and it endorsed a U.S.-crafted proposal to overhaul the Pacific Rim's tradeways, tightening security on millions of shipping containers, fortifying cockpit doors in airliners and strengthening customs cooperation. They also called on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to conduct assessments of countries' efforts to stop the flow of money to terrorists.

The leaders issued a separate statement, calling on North Korea to "visibly honor its commitment to give up nuclear weapons programs."

It did not directly condemn North Korea for trying to build a nuclear bomb.

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