INTERNATIONAL

Bush, Goh agree to firm up defence ties

SINGAPORE Oct. 22. The U.S. and Singapore have decided to discuss a "Framework Agreement for the Promotion of a Strategic Cooperation Partnership in Defence and Security''. This was decided when the U.S. President, George W. Bush, met the Singapore Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, here last night. The agreement is not being conceived as a formal military alliance despite the strength of the U.S.-Singapore relationship as exemplified by sustained defence-related cooperation and their relatively new free trade agreement.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Goh noted that the notion would "expand the scope of current bilateral cooperation in [the] areas of defence and security''. The specific fields identified were "counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, joint military exercises and training, policy dialogue, and defence technology''.

Both leaders expressed their desire to firm up and implement the idea as soon as possible. Though neither of them elaborated the idea in their joint statement, the plan has taken shape in the context of Washington's decision to designate two of Singapore's South-East Asian neighbours — the Philippines and Thailand — as "major non-NATO allies''.

Mr. Bush praised Mr. Goh as a "wise man'' and said that they discussed how to "continue to foster our agenda of peace and freedom as well as prosperity through trade''. Washington's new strategic networking with the countries of East Asia acquires importance in this context.

Bali visit

Mr. Bush today visited Bali, in a gesture of solidarity with Indonesia in its fight against terrorism amid anti-U.S. protests in Jakarta.

The protest themes centred on opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the perceived attitude of Washington towards the Islamic world.

Just over a year ago, Bali was the scene of the world's most deadly terrorist strike after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. Mr. Bush said in Bali, before leaving for Australia, that the U.S. and Indonesia "stand together against terrorism'' and that Jakarta "is a vital partner .... a friend to America''.

The Indonesian President, Megawati Sukarnoputri, said that "despite the fact that we do not always share [a] common perspective, we both .... continue to maintain consultation and cooperation in the pursuit of global peace''.

Mr. Bush told media that the U.S. and a few countries "are willing to advance a multi-party security agreement'' with North Korea "assuming that he [the North Korean leader] is willing to abandon his nuclear weapons designs and programmes''.

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