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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Print Story: Bush to seek China concessions, bird flu action in Asia on Yahoo! News

Print Story: Bush to seek China concessions, bird flu action in Asia on Yahoo! News Bush to seek China concessions, bird flu action in Asia

1 hour, 53 minutes ago

Embattled US President George W. Bush leaves for Asia Monday hoping to win economic and human rights concessions from China and use a regional summit in South Korea to rally efforts to fight bird flu.

Other issues include the crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons, Asian support for US-led efforts in Iraq, disaster relief after the 2004 tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan, as well as how to wage the war on terrorism.

Bush leaves Washington Monday and makes a pit stop in Alaska before heading to Japan, then an Asia-Pacific summit in South Korea, followed by a visit in China and finally a brief stay in Mongolia -- his first ever stop there.

The White House has warned against expecting any breakthroughs from the week-long trip, his first to the region since he won a second term one year ago, but says it will showcase the importance of US involvement in Asia.

"I'm really looking forward to my trip," Bush told reporters last week.

But the US president heads to the region burdened by his worst poll numbers ever, the unpopular war in Iraq, and a CIA leak investigation that led to the indictment of a senior aide and still swirls around his White House.

And Asia has noticed, according to John Tkacik, a former US State Department official who spent a decade on duty in China and is now at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington.

"The impression in Asia, I feel, is that the president is merely checking off boxes until he goes back to Washington to focus on Iraq and domestic crises -- his decline in the polls, troubles in the White House and a general alarm in Congress that the president's domestic agenda isn't gaining traction," he said.

Bush's trip starts off with a stop in Kyoto, where he will hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and visit a revered Zen Buddhist temple -- Kinkakuji, or Temple of the Golden Pavilion.

Japan's ban on US beef imports and the realignment of US forces in Japan, as well as Japan-US military cooperation are expected when the two leaders, close allies and friends, meet in the ancient city.

From there, Bush heads to the South Korean port of Busan for a summit of 21 leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, where he is expected to push for reviving difficult global free trade talks.

On November 17, Bush will visit the ancient Korean capital of Gyeongju, for talks with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun and a visit to the Bulguksa Temple, one of the country's premier Buddhist temples.

In Busan, Bush will have bilateral meetings with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as well as talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders.

The China leg of the trip may be the most difficult, as Bush plans to press President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to allow more religious freedom, protect intellectual property rights, and let free markets decide the value of China's currency.

The United States has been the loudest in accusing China of destabilizing the global economy by keeping its exchange rate too rigid, leading to an undervalued yuan and an enormous boost for Chinese exports that has created a mammoth US trade deficit with the Asian powerhouse.

Another dispute involves the counterfeiting of goods, with Washington accusing Beijing of doing too little to deter violations.

Experts say China produces some 70 percent of the world's counterfeit goods with pirated music and video discs and all manner of fake brand-named products widely available.

The US president hopes to use the APEC summit and his trip to China to bolster international efforts to prevent a global outbreak of deadly avian influenza, which has claimed more than 60 lives in Asia since 2003.

Bush, after what will be his third visit to China since taking office in January 2001, will become the first ever sitting US president to visit Mongolia.

He is expected to offer words of support for democracy and market reforms in Mongolia, which has deployed troops in support of US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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