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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Japan Today - News - Bush has little to show for Asia trip - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - Bush has little to show for Asia trip - Japan's Leading International News NetworkBush has little to show for Asia trip

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005 at 07:35 JST
ULAN BATOR — U.S. President George W Bush on Monday wrapped up a week-long trip to Asia, where he trumpeted shows of unity on Iran and North Korea and made little concrete progress on trade disputes.

Even before Bush left Washington, White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley had made no secret that the president's trip to Japan, South Korea, China and Mongolia would yield few tangible benefits.

By the time the visit finished, with Bush becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit this former land of Genghis Khan, U.S. officials were playing up dialogue, pledges to keep talking, and declarations of common purpose.

"North Korea must abandon its nuclear weapons programs," Bush said in Beijing. "The fact that China and the United States can work on this issue as equal partners is important for the stability of this region and the world."

Despite a Washington axiom that politics stops at the water's edge, Bush never fully escaped from a festering bitterness over the war in Iraq even as he toured storied Buddhist temples thousands of kilometers away.

"This is a debate worthy of our country; it's an important debate," he said in Beijing. "Leaving prematurely will have terrible consequences ... And that's not going to happen so long as I'm the president."

Bush came home with at least one U.S. victory: A $4 billion deal Chinese deal with Boeing to buy 70 737 aircraft between 2006 and 2008 as part of a broader arrangement to eventually supply 150 737s.

But he also suffered one diplomatic embarrassment, when South Korean officials unveiled plans to cut its troop level in Iraq by one third — one day after Bush praised the deployment after talks with President Roh Moo-Hyun.

And Chinese President Hu Jintao rebuffed his appeals for wider religious and political freedom for China's 1.3 billion people while offering only flexibility, not concessions, in a series of trade disputes.

Bush said he had sought clemency for political dissidents who "we believe are improperly imprisoned" and urged Beijing to reach out to the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, and the Catholic Church.

Bush, who sought out U.S. allies' take on Beijing's rising political, economic, and military clout, heard generally reassuring assessments, senior White House aides told reporters.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said worries about China hollowing out Japan's economy had not borne out. Roh said Beijing was playing a key role in the six-country talks with North Korea.

Hu and Bush said they would continue their discussions in the United States in early 2006. (Wire reports)

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