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Thursday, October 18, 2001

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Bush to shore up support in E. Asia

By Sridhar Krishnaswami

WASHINGTON, OCT. 17. The U.S. President, Mr. George W. Bush, leaves today on a five-day trip to East Asia to participate in the Meeting of Leaders of the Asia Pacific as a part of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

Prior to leaving Washington, Mr. Bush is meeting Congressional leaders which will be followed by a stop in Sacramento, California, where he will talk about the economy besides meeting troops at the Travis Air Force base.

The President is, at this time, expected to be out of the country until next Monday and administration officials are confident that he will fully participate in the leaders' meeting on Oct. 21 and 22. At the same time, the cautionary word is that Mr. Bush may cut short his trip to Shanghai if the situation warrants.

The visit as originally put together was for 10 days with the President spending time with key allies of the United States such as Japan and South Korea. In the pre-Sept. 11 scheme of things, Mr. Bush was going to Beijing on an official visit. Now, all this is in a highly truncated fashion.

The shortened trip to East Asia does not mean that it does not carry additional significance. In fact, what is being said here is that aside from the routine discussions of the state of the world and regional economies and the usual high sounding talk about free trade, Mr. Bush will be having international terrorism very high on the agenda but without giving the impression that other issues are being pushed to the sidelines.

``What we want to do... .is to work with every Government in which there is a substantial Al-Qaeda presence to figure out a strategy for rooting it out'', the National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, said. But the air strikes on Afghanistan have had a visible impact in South East Asia; and Washington is not particularly pleased with criticism coming out of some countries such as Indonesia.

The U.S. is working on an APEC Statement on Terrorism which will apparently have no references to either Osama or the strikes against Afghanistan. Rather, what is being sought is a statement that says that the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. is an attack on the APEC's vision of ``free, open and prosperous economies'' and, therefore, a threat to peace and security of all peoples of the world.

An important component of the President's trip to Shanghai is in his bilaterals with the Presidents of Russia and China and the Prime Ministers of Japan, Malaysia and South Korea.

In between the formal sessions, the President will be closeted with his National Security team. For instance, Mr. Bush will be briefed by his Secretary of State, Gen. Colin Powell, on his trip to Pakistan and India.

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