Bush to pressure China and Russia

By NICHOLAS M. HORROCK, UPI Chief White House Correspondent  |  Oct. 23, 2002 at 10:26 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush plans to use a weekend of diplomatic meetings in Texas and Mexico to try to persuade skeptical members of the U.N. Security Council to back a demand that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein disarm, White House officials said Wednesday.

The president has a 90-minute meeting with China's President Jiang Zemin at his ranch Friday. Over the weekend in Mexico, Bush will meet with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, Mexico's president, Vicente Fox, and leaders of Singapore and Indonesia.

Four out of five of those countries have votes on the U.N. Security Council.

The nations are coming together at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico. The last meeting, shortly after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, was held in Shanghai.

But this year, the gathering will give Bush a perfect forum to discuss not only Iraq, but the terrorist attack in Bali and the discovery that the North Koreans were secretly developing a nuclear weapons program.

The meetings will give Bush a chance to discuss face to face the objections of Russia and China, both of which are very skeptical of giving the United States an unfettered right to attack Iraq.

Asked Wednesday about Russia's objections, White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said she really didn't know "what is at the root of the argument."

She said Bush has made it clear the United States is willing to cooperate "and if we can disarm him through the process the U.N. puts in place, all the better."

But Rice said if the president can't get clearance from the United Nations, the United States and "other like-minded states" would go ahead and act.

"The one thing we cannot have is inaction. So while military force is not inevitable, inaction cannot be the answer."

The weekend also gives Bush a chance to rally a coalition to deal with the startling disclosure last week that North Korea was secretly developing nuclear weapons after signing an agreement in 1994 to discontinue the project.

Bush is expected to ask Jiang to press North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to end the development of weapons and open his country to tough weapons inspections.

Rice reiterated that the United States views the problem with Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction differently than it views the disclosure of the North Korean weapons program.

Part of the difference, she said, was that the nations in the Asian region were in agreement about the dangers of North Korea's possessing those weapons and part was that North Korea was making an attempt to come into the family of nations.

She said if North Korea wants to "enter the international community, its economic benefits, its trade benefits," it could not "brandish an illegal nuclear weapons program that is in clear violation of international obligations."

She saw the weekend of diplomacy as a chance for Bush to "see what kind of common strategies we can employ to try and get the North Koreans to live up to their international obligations."

In the agreement for North Korea to halt weapons development, eight years ago, the United States and several other nations agreed to supply fuel oil and build a peaceful nuclear reactor for the impoverished nation if it dropped the weapons program.

Rice said no decision had been made about whether to cut off those oil shipments.

Bush will also meet with the leaders of Japan and South Korea on the weapons crisis and the president of Indonesia.

Rice said that she felt U.S-Chinese relations "are on good footing."

Recalling that this is Bush's third meeting with Jiang, after a very warm visit to Beijing last February and a meeting a year ago in Shanghai, Rice said the two will also discuss the continued danger of terrorism. The bombing in Bali earlier this month will be part of that discussion.

She said that "there has been some progress" on a number of difficult issues between the two countries, including China's passing of a weapons proliferation law and "small signs of progress on human rights and religious freedom."

Always a thorny issue for the two countries is the U.S. support for the government of Taiwan, the island driven from the Chinese mainland in 1949.

A senior administration official, who asked not to be identified, told Asian reporters at a background briefing that Bush favored direct military-to-military contacts with mainland China as a way of reducing tension, but that the president would reconfirm for Jiang the United States' support for Taiwan.

The U.S. favors peaceful reunification.

Jiang steps down next year as China's president in a carefully orchestrated and apparently peaceful succession. He let it be known in Beijing last February that he coveted an invitation to the Bush ranch, as Putin had received.

Bush plans a 90-minute business meeting Friday, a tour of the ranch in Bush's now-famous pickup truck and a ranch lunch.

Jiang's wife, Wang Yeping, and first lady Laura Bush will join the two leaders for lunch.

Jiang arrived in the United States on Wednesday and will visit Chicago and Houston on his way to the ranch Thursday.

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