In a news briefing on President Bush's forthcoming attendance at the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Shanghai, Condoleezza Rice said the president had discussed foregoing his trip as the number of cases of anthrax and other tensions emerged, "but the president feels very strongly, as he said to the American people, that we have to go about the business of doing what makes America strong."
The trip, which was originally set to include visits to Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul, was limited after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to a two-day attendance at the conference in Shanghai.
Rice said Bush believes the conference is important to work on global economic issues and "to continue to build the coalition against terrorism." She said he would be in constant touch with his national security team and will be joined in Shanghai by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is visiting Pakistan and India.
As U.S. planes continued to pound Afghanistan, Powell's meetings in Islamabad and New Delhi become increasingly important. The war has resulted in growing anti-American unrest in Pakistan, and there has also been a clash between Indian and Pakistani forces in Kashmir.
Bush hopes to explore the issue of how to stabilize Afghanistan after the war and the possible collapse of the Taliban. The leaders of APEC include many nations of the region surrounding the war zone.
In addition to conference matters, the president will have bilateral meetings with leaders of China, Russia and South Korea as well as Singapore, Malaysia, Peru and Brunei.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Monday that he was aware of a small group of Taliban-trained terrorists in his country aimed at toppling his administration, but he rejected the notion of outside help to fight them.
"The only difference is that these terrorists are directing their attacks at us and we can take care of them. They are not attacking the United States." Malaysia has one of the largest Muslim populations in the world.
Rice said the president and President Vladimir Putin of Russia will discuss counter-terrorism and a "broad agenda" of other issues. On Chechnya, Rice said the president has been very clear in his concern about human rights issues, but "it is important for the legitimate Chechen leadership to make sure there are no international terrorists among them."
Russia views many of the Chechen insurgents as terrorists arising from the same Islamist political spectrum as al-Qaida.