President Bush has departed Saturday, for a week-long visit to Asia. The president will use his visit to the region to discuss the fight against terrorism and the need to lower trade barriers.
The president's trip to Japan, South Korea, and China is aimed at strengthening the alliances, which National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice says have helped keep the peace in the region for 50 years and are now making "vital contributions" to fight terrorism.
"The war against terrorism underscores the continuing importance of our alliances with the great democracies of Asia, and our allies have stood with us, providing not only sympathy, but military assistance necessary to help win the war, as well as a host of other help, including shutting down financial networks and working to bring the terrorists to justice," Ms. Rice said.
Ms. Rice has said shared intelligence and coordinated law enforcement are some of the most effective ways to counter terrorism, not only in the United States, but in Japan, South Korea, and China as well.
She said the president will talk about lowering trade barriers and opening agricultural markets in Asia. Mr. Bush will thank Japan for supporting reconstruction in Afghanistan and will offer his support for the government's economic reforms.
"The president is going to talk with the Japanese prime minister about the importance of getting the Japanese economy going again. It is the second largest economy in the world. He will talk about also U.S. responsibility to get the American economy going again," she said.
During talks with Chinese leaders, Ms. Rice said President Bush will raise specific cases of persecution against members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement as well as what she calls "broader issues of religious freedom and human rights. They will also discuss regional security issues including Taiwan as well as Chinese concerns about a planned U.S. missile defense system.
"The president has always said that our missile defense program is defensive in nature, it is not aimed at anybody, it is not intended to give the United States unilateral advantage. All peace-loving countries should be comfortable with our efforts to acquire missile defenses. And I think that's the message he will take to the Chinese and we're happy to have that discussion," she said.
Mr. Bush will visit U.S. troops along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. In his State of the Union address last month, the president said North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq, must not be allowed to help terrorists acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. Ms. Rice has said the president's warning to North Korea does not conflict with U.S. support for South Korean efforts to improve relations and eventual reunification.
"The president sees absolutely no contradiction between calling the North Korean regime precisely what it is, a secretive and repressive regime that is trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and therefore, is a danger to peace and stability - not to mention being the merchant for ballistic missile technology around the world - and efforts by the South Korean president, really very intensive efforts by the South Korean president, to try and open up an avenue for North Korea to come across, to get out of its bad behavior, and to seek reconciliation with the South," Ms. Rice said.
President Bush is also expected to face questions about his new plan to slow the growth of greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming. Mr. Bush has rejected the Kyoto treaty on global warming as too costly for U.S. business. His plan calls for tax cuts and other incentives to get companies to voluntarily reduce environmentally-harmful emissions. The Japanese environment minister Friday said he is disappointed with the Bush plan because it falls short of targets set by the Kyoto protocol.