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Bush in Vietnam for APEC Summit


President Bush has arrived in Hanoi for talks with Vietnam's leaders prior to the Pacific Rim economic summit. Mr. Bush is also meeting privately with other participants in the APEC forum, discussing such issues as North Korea, trade and the war in Iraq.

Three decades after the end of the Vietnam War, a marching band and military units in formation welcomed the president of the United States to Vietnam.

It is a sign to the world, says Mr. Bush, that two countries can reconcile a troubled past.

"I guess my first reaction is, history has a long march to it, and that societies change, and relationships can constantly be altered to the good," he said.

Roughly six years after Bill Clinton became the first U.S. president since the war to visit Vietnam, George W. Bush arrived in Hanoi. Both men are part of the generation that fought in and against the Vietnam War. Neither served in combat, but their lives were touched by the conflict half a world away.

Speaking to reporters shortly after his arrival Friday, Mr. Bush reflected on his impressions of the Vietnamese capital.

"You know, Laura and I were talking about - we were talking about how amazing it is we're here in Vietnam," said Mr. Bush. "And one of the most poignant moments of the drive in was passing the lake where John McCain got pulled out of the lake."

John McCain, now a member of the U.S. Senate and a potential presidential candidate, was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. While here, Mr. Bush will meet with military teams searching for Americans still missing in action long after the end of hostilities. But he will also look to the future, talking about trade and mutual security concerns.

The president was asked if there are any lessons from the Vietnam War that can be applied to the current conflict in Iraq. He pointed to Vietnam's emergence over decades from a nation scarred by bloodshed, to a country with one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

"One lesson is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while," he said.

Throughout his stay in Hanoi, Mr. Bush is meeting not only with Vietnamese officials, but also individually with other leaders of some of the 21 nations attending the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on Saturday and Sunday.

The first of these one-on-one talks occurred almost immediately after he landed in Vietnam. Over lunch with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Mr. Bush discussed the situation in Iraq.

The president said he wants all of America's coalition partners to know that the recent Democratic Party victory in U.S. Congressional elections does not mean there will be an abrupt shift in U.S. policy.

"We'll succeed, unless we quit. The Maliki government is going to make it, unless the coalition leaves before they have a chance to make it," he added. "And that's why I assured the [Australian] prime minister we'll get the job done."

Mr. Howard has been a strong supporter of the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq. Several hundred Australian troops serve with coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Bush noted that his administration is currently reviewing the situation in Iraq, as is an independent panel authorized by Congress. He said he will share the results first with members of the Iraq coalition, including Prime Minister Howard.