President Bush leaves for China Wednesday to take part in the APEC (Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit in Shanghai. It is the first trip abroad for the president since last month's terrorist attacks.
There has been considerable discussion in the Bush Administration about whether the President should go to China while U-S warplanes are bombing Afghanistan. In the end, Mr. Bush decided to go ahead with the trip to Shanghai while indefinitely postponing visits to Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the trip will not affect the President's ability to direct the U.S. led coalition against terrorism or the administration's response to letters contaminated with the deadly anthrax bacteria.
Mr. Bush will be in frequent contact with administration officials throughout the five-day trip which is his first to Asia since taking office.
On the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC. Mr. Bush will meet separately with the leaders of China, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Brunei, Peru, and Singapore. He will also meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Fleischer stresses it is an opportunity for the president to reinforce the need for a global war on terrorism while helping revive the ailing world economy by promoting free trade. "The stated purpose of APEC, as is traditional, is an economic council," he said. "It's purpose is to create an environment to have economic development that benefits all the entities that belong. So that, number one, the trade matter. Two, I think you can expect some type of statement about anti-terrorism that will unite all those who are there."
U.S. officials are expected to concentrate on increasing cooperation with Muslim nations in the region, particularly Malaysia and Indonesia. The Bush administration and its Arab allies do not want the war on terrorism to appear to be a broader campaign against Islam. The president Tuesday repeated that message, telling school children that this is a fight against evil, not against the peaceful religion of Islam.