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Bush Ends Asia Trip

President Bush is back in Washington following an eight-day trip to Asia.

President Bush began his trip in Japan with a speech that urged Chinese leaders to meet what he called the legitimate demands of their people for freedom and openness.

"As China reforms its economy, its leaders are finding that once the door to freedom is open even a crack, it cannot be close," he said. "As the people of China grow in prosperity, their demands for political freedom will grow as well."

He held up Taiwan as an example of a nation that has moved from repression to democracy as it has liberalized its economy - advancing freedom at all levels and delivering prosperity while creating what Mr. Bush called a democratic Chinese society.

That drew a sharp response from some Chinese officials who consider Taiwan a renegade province hardly worthy of emulation. But if the critique soured the relationship between President Bush and President Hu Jintao, they did not show it.

After a meeting in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, President Hu said through an interpreter that his country already enjoys democratic freedoms.

"Notable and historic progress have been made in China's development of a democratic political system and human rights," he said. "The Chinese people are exercising their right of democratic elections, democratic decision making, democratic management, and democratic supervision according to law."

There was no demonstrable progress on resolving the trade imbalance between the United States and China or on getting Beijing to follow through on promises made four months ago to revalue its currency.

President Bush and President Hu did agree to work together to stop the spread of Avian Flu, which was a central focus of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in South Korea.

That flu has already killed more than 60 people in Asia and health officials are worried it could mutate into a virus that can be spread between humans.

The biggest issue the president faced in Asia is the biggest issue he faces at home - the war in Iraq. He told U.S. troops in Alaska and at an air base in South Korea that there will be no premature withdrawal of U.S. forces because that would embolden the enemy and undermine Iraq's political future.

During a speech in Mongolia at the end of his trip, Mr. Bush likened that country's campaign to end Communism 15 years ago with the struggle against Muslim fundamentalists in Iraq today.

"Like the ideology of Communism, Islamic radicalism teaches that the innocent can be murdered to serve their brutal aims. Like the ideology of Communism, Islamic radicalism is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent," said Mr. Bush. "And like the ideology of Communism, the ideology of Islamic radicalism is destined to fail because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in freedom."

Responding to political opposition to the war is nothing new for President Bush, but White House officials did appear surprised during the trip when a respected Democrat on defense issues and a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War called for those troops to come home.

Republicans in Congress and White House Spokesman Scott McClellan denounced Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha's call, saying it would be surrendering to terrorists on the eve of historic elections in Iraq.

President Bush sought to tone down some of that rhetoric during comments to reporters in Beijing.

"Congressman Murtha is a fine man, a good man who served our country with honor and distinction as a Marine in Vietnam and as a United States Congressman. He is a strong supporter of the United States military and I know the decision to call for an immediate withdrawal of our troops by Congressman Murtha was done in a careful and thoughtful way," he said. "I disagree with his position."

President Bush says insurgents in Iraq are trying to break America's will so they can turn the country into what they had in Afghanistan under the Taleban - a safe haven where Mr. Bush says they can plan attacks against America and freedom loving countries around the world.

The president and Mrs. Bush leave for their Texas ranch Tuesday where they will spend the Thanksgiving weekend.

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