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Bush to Focus on Terrorism at APEC Meeting - 2001-10-16

President Bush will focus on strengthening the international coalition against terrorism when he travels to Shanghai, China later this week for the annual Pacific rim summit. Despite the ongoing U.S. assault on terrorist and Taleban targets in Afghanistan, aides say the President is determined to make the trip.

The President's National Security Advisor acknowledges there was a debate at the White House over whether or not the President should go to Shanghai. But Condoleezza Rice says Mr. Bush had no doubts. "The President feels that this is an extremely important trip and an extremely important time to take this trip," she said.

She says the summit is an opportunity to expand international support for fighting terrorism. Ms. Rice says the President has a lot to talk about when he meets with the leaders of the 20 other countries attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. She says they all know the terrorism problem is widespread, and an all-out effort is needed to eradicate terrorist cells around the world. "It's like cutting out a cancer now in 60-plus countries," she said. "You've got to get to these cells and root them out and disrupt them before they strike again."

She says President Bush is especially interested in working with countries where members of the al-Qaida terrorist organization operate. "They know that terrorists are after the stability of their countries as well, these extremists," says Ms. Rice. "And so we believe we have common cause with them and that we can work toward a common understanding."

Several APEC countries are dealing with a terrorist presence: Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Ms. Rice dismisses reports the United States might send special forces or trainers to those countries. "What we do want to do, though, is work with every government in which there is a substantial al-Qaida presence to figure out a strategy for rooting it out," she said.

Shanghai was originally just one stop on an itinerary that also included visits to Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. Mr. Bush will hold one on one meetings with the Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean leaders on the sidelines of the APEC summit. He will also hold bilateral talks with the heads of Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Peru and Russia.

These summits were designed as an opportunity for Pacific Rim nations to consult on economic policy. And to a large extent, the formal sessions in Shanghai will follow suit. But the war on terrorism is definitely at the top of the U.S. agenda. Condoleezza Rice says boosting the global economy and trade will be important topics at the summit. But she also notes improving economic conditions is one way to fight terrorism, which finds followers among the poor.