P. S. Suryanarayana
SINGAPORE: United States President George W. Bush on Wednesday said he would have “a candid discussion” with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, about the “complex relationship” between their countries.
The two leaders will meet in Sydney on Thursday in the run-up to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, slated there for the weekend.
After signing a new “Defence Trade Cooperation Agreement” with the APEC summit host and Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, Mr. Bush hailed the new pact, outlined the complexity of U.S.-China ties, and spoke warmly about Washington’s “great relationship” with Japan, “the former enemy.”
The U.S., Japan, and Australia are to hold a summit of their own, as part of the APEC process, to cement their Trilateral Strategic Dialogue as a relatively new political alliance.
Significantly, Mr. Bush cited India too, alongside China, as an important player to be co-opted for the efforts to address climate change.
India, which has established a “quadrilateral” network with the U.S. as also Japan and Australia, is not an APEC member; and climate change is high on the agenda of the Asia-Pacific summit.
In a wide-ranging comment on Beijing as a factor in U.S. foreign policy, Mr. Bush said: “We still have got a huge trade deficit with China. We have got great relations with China, from a diplomatic perspective [though]. … Do we agree on every issue? Not at all. I have spent time talking about dissidents who have been jailed. I am concerned about the treatment of the Dalai Lama. I want China to be more aggressive when it comes to Iran. … So, I will have a good, honest, candid discussion. One area where we are making good progress is on North Korea.”
Mr. Bush did not harp on the now-familiar U.S. line about China’s alleged military build-up. Whether or not this had anything do with the non-strategic nature of the APEC summits, leaders of the 21 economies are now expected to discuss not only climate change but also the future of Doha Round.
The APEC Ministers on Wednesday began discussions, amid public protest against the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the injustices of globalisation. The Ministers may leave the question of APEC expansion to the leaders of member-economies, Australia said.