President Bush declared today that China stands "side by side with the American people" during the U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden and his followers.
At a news conference after conducting an initial meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Bush told reporters that he is satisfied with Beijing's cooperation on intelligence gathering and in pursuing the financial assets of terrorists.
"There was no hesitation; there was no doubt they'd stand with our people during this terrible time," Bush said.
"We have a common understanding of the magnitude of the threat posed by international terrorism. All civilized nations must join together to defeat this threat. And I believe that the United States and China can accomplish a lot," Bush said.
Bush also said the U.S. and China will not always agree, but "we will always deal with our differences in a spirit of mutual respect." He said he also told Jiang that the counter-terrorism war "must never be used as an excuse to persecute minorities."
For his part, Jiang told reporters that he was "pleased to note that recently, there's been an improvement in our ties."
Jiang told reporters that he and Bush have reached a consensus on terrorism and U.S.-China ties.
The Bush-Jiang meeting here signaled a new era in Sino-U.S. relations that emphasizes cooperation on the war against terrorism and formally puts to rest some tensions.
Relations between Beijing and Washington had been difficult in the wake of the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade two years ago and the emergency landing of a U.S. spy plane on a southern Chinese island this year.
Earlier, Bush and Jiang met in a conference room in the Western Suburb Guest House, onetime home of a Shanghai textile magnate that now serves as a private guest house for China's leaders.
The visit reflects the impact of the Sept. 11 attacks in transforming American foreign policy. Just weeks ago, the Bush administration labeled China a "strategic competitor." The president served notice that the United States would do "whatever it takes" to protect Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rebel province. Now China, which has closed its comparatively small border with Afghanistan, is firmly in the camp of allies fighting the war against terrorism.
Besides sweeping security measures, China also addressed new concerns about anthrax by setting up checks in postal sorting rooms and at border crossings, Chinese officials announced.
This is Bush's first trip abroad since the Sept. 11 attacks. His only other trip to China was a six-week tour in 1975 to visit his father, who was then ambassador to China.
Bush arrived in China on Thursday for the annual meeting of the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, where he will face both strong support for the U.S.-led military campaign and deep concerns about the fallout among some member states. APEC members range from Australia, which has offered elite commandos for Operation Enduring Freedom, to Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country and site of early anti-U.S. demonstrations.
In Taipei, Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian said today that the island decided to boycott the weekend summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Shanghai. China had rejected request that Chen or former vice president Li Yuan-zu attend, insisting on a minister with an economic portfolio.
Bush arrived shortly after foreign ministers finished drafting a four-point statement pledging that the world's largest economic alliance will fight terrorism as a battle between "civilization and savagery."
But because of objections from Muslim members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia, the document skirts mention of the U.S.-led coalition's campaign against Saudi militant Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan's extremist Islamic Taliban regime.
Malaysian officials instead publicly urged the United States to explore the root causes that have led people to turn to extremism and called for an international conference to discuss terrorism, an idea that is gaining momentum here.
During preliminary talks before heads of state begin their weekend summit, Muslim countries also called on the United States to devise the coalition military campaign in Afghanistan to avoid civilian deaths.
"[Ensure that] whatever retaliation may be taken . . . doesn't harm innocent people," Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Abdul Aziz said Thursday.
Nevertheless, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called the draft, which is expected to be passed by APEC's heads of state Sunday, a show of support from Pacific Rim allies.
"Earlier this morning, we got a resounding signal of support from all members present. And President Bush will get the same signal when he meets with those leaders over the weekend," Powell said in a speech Thursday to U.S. business leaders in the U.S. APEC Business Coalition.
The foreign ministers' four-point declaration, which describes the terrorist attacks as "murderous deeds," also labels terrorism a threat to international peace and security that should be denounced and attacked. It calls for full cooperation with international conventions on terrorism and U.N. resolutions, and it condemns nations that aid or abet terrorist activities.
For the broader war against terrorism, the draft document also pledges that finance networks facilitating terrorism should be broadly combated and involve every aspect of politics, economics, society and law.
"Anti-terrorism is a fight between justice and evil, civilization and savagery," Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan said as he and other ministers concluded talks to set the agenda for this year's APEC forum.
"It's not a confrontation between different nations, different cultures or different religions," Tang said. "We recommend dialogue between civilizations, coexistence and cooperation."
Besides Indonesia, APEC's 21 members include predominantly Muslim Malaysia and Brunei. The Philippines and China also have significant and rebellious Muslim minorities. In recent days, Indonesia and Malaysia have witnessed violent demonstrations condemning the U.S. bombing strikes on Afghanistan.
On Sunday, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri said no country has the right to "cleanse blood with blood," which was widely interpreted as a dig at the mounting civilian toll from the punitive airstrikes in Afghanistan.
But at a joint news conference with his 20 colleagues, Powell said his peers were understanding.
"I'm very proud of the way in which the world has come together to say that terrorism cannot be tolerated," he said. "I found understanding among my colleagues. There was a hope that the military campaign would be ended quickly on a note of success, but I cannot say that concerns were expressed, just the hope that it would achieve its purpose soon."
APEC, which was formed in 1989 during the administration of Bush's father, normally focuses on economic concerns of the Pacific Rim countries and territories.
But like many other international forums, the agenda has been diverted by the attacks in the United States, which killed more than 5,200 people from about 80 nations.
China tapped into the prevailing anger at Islamic extremists Thursday by calling for international backing for its efforts to quell Muslim separatists in the western region of Xinjiang.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun