Accessibility links

Bush Heads To Asia For Weeklong Trip


U.S. President George Bush is on his way to Asia for talks with leaders in South Korea, Thailand, and China - where he will attend the opening of the Olympic Games. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports from Seoul - the first stop on his weeklong trip.

White House officials say the president's talks in Seoul will deal with trade and military matters.

But hanging over all the discussions here will be North Korea and efforts to deal with Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

Since Mr. Bush last met with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in April, North Korea has submitted a long-awaited declaration of its plutonium-related activities. It has also destroyed the cooling tower at its reactor at Yongbyon. But President Bush has made clear those steps are only the beginning.

"We are concerned about enriched uranium and proliferation, and human rights abuses, ballistic missile programs," said President Bush. "I view this process as a multi-step process where there will be action for action."

From Seoul, Mr. Bush travels to Thailand where he will highlight conditions in another trouble spot - neighboring Burma.

While the official stated reason for his visit is to celebrate the 175th anniversary of U.S.-Thai relations, the president will also be meeting with Burmese dissidents and will get a briefing on relief efforts following Cyclone Nargis.

But most media attention is likely to be focused on First Lady Laura Bush. She will travel to the Thai-Burmese border to visit a refugee center, and a clinic.

They will arrive together in Bejing on the eve of the Olympic opening ceremonies. When Mr. Bush walks into the main stadium Friday evening, local time, he will become the first U.S president in history to attend an Olympic games outside the United States.

"I view the Olympics as an opportunity for me to cheer on our athletes," said Mr. Bush. "It's an athletic event."

But experts in Asian affairs say if the president thinks he can go the Beijing Olympics as just another sports fan, he is very mistaken.

Derek Mitchell is an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington - a private group that conducts research on foreign policy matters.

"It is going to be difficult for him in public," said Derek Mitchell. "But he enjoys sports. And I think he really wanted to go because of the sports. But whether he gets embarrassed while there - it is not going to be just an issue of an individual, it is going to be an issue of the United States prestige."

The president has said he will bring up issues such as human rights in China just not at the Olympics. He met with a group of Chinese democracy advocates at the White House last week, and he plans on attending church while in Beijing to reinforce calls for greater religious freedom.


XS
SM
MD
LG