- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 13, 2005

PUSAN, South Korea — President Bush departs today on a seven-day trip to Asia, where he can expect a warmer welcome than on his recent visit to Latin America.

His hosts will include enthusiastic allies Japan and Mongolia as well as China and South Korea — which have differences with Washington but do not want them to disrupt relations.

Mr. Bush also will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Pusan, where the 21 member states are expected to agree to support free-trade talks at the World Trade Organization.

This trip will be vastly different from Mr. Bush’s visit to the Summit of the Americas in Argentina. There, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez led a stadium full of demonstrators against a U.S.-backed proposal for a free-trade zone that failed to gain the support of the 34 nations attending.

“All in all, it’ll be certainly a much warmer welcome in Korea than in Latin America,” says Ralph Cossa, president of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Nevertheless, an estimated 18,000 people carrying anti-globalization signs peacefully demonstrated in Seoul yesterday in advance of the APEC summit, and organizers said thousands more will be on Pusan’s streets during the meeting.

Mr. Bush’s first stop is Japan, where Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been eager to cozy up to Washington. The United States hopes to get a ban on American beef imports lifted two years after it was imposed because of concerns about mad cow disease.

Mr. Bush then heads to South Korea for talks on APEC’s goal of establishing free trade between member economies by 2020.

He said last week that he would be representing workers and business in addition to the United States in the talks. In a nod to globalization opponents, he said the meeting “will also help us work together to alleviate poverty.”

Mr. Bush will meet separately with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, elected in 2002 on promises that he would not “kowtow” to Washington. South Korea has differed with Washington over the costs of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea and U.S. plans for the troops to become a regional force.

Heading to China, Mr. Bush is expected to deliver muted criticism about Beijing’s human rights policies and call for tougher measures against copyright violations. The White House irked China before the trip when Mr. Bush met the Dalai Lama and the administration released a report labeling Beijing a serious violator of religious freedom.

Mr. Bush’s last stop is Mongolia, where he will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit. The landlocked country has reached out to the United States to avoid the sway of big neighbors China and Russia, sending 120 troops to Iraq and about 50 to Afghanistan. The visit will last a few hours.

“They’re going to love him in Mongolia. … He may want to stay three days,” Mr. Cossa said.

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