- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

HANOI — President Bush stopped off in Moscow yesterday to talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the nuclear proliferation efforts by North Korea and Iran before proceeding to Southeast Asia for an eight-day trade and economic trip.

Russian officials said the two leaders agreed to sign a deal next week that would help Russia join the World Trade Organization.

National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said he and his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, talked and said there is still general agreement on passing a United Nations resolution with consequences if Iran continues to pursue its nuclear program.

“We need a resolution, we need to show that there’s some consequences, we also need to keep the door open to negotiations if the Iranians are willing to come and suspend” their program, said Mr. Hadley.

Taking leave of Washington — a city he lost to the Democrats one week ago — Mr. Bush arrived in Singapore today on a trip that will be long on economic and trade talks and short on U.S. politics — even though his forthcoming stay in Vietnam will prompt comparisons to the flagging war in Iraq.

The White House said the president plans to focus his trip to Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia on encouraging free trade and praising economic expansion in the ascendant nations. In a speech he will deliver today, the president will utter little of his usual rhetoric on foreign trips, when he often urges nations to step up in the fight against terrorism.

“In his remarks, the president will highlight the importance of Asia in the world and will discuss the ways in which the United States and Asian nations are partnering together to face the challenges of poverty, disease, terrorism, and energy security,” said Mr. Hadley.

While Mr. Bush will be president for another two years, his loss of Congress considerably weakens his clout at home. One former White House adviser said the strong hand he held when he bucked the international community and invaded Iraq may be all but played out.

“The Asian leaders will be looking at President Bush’s body language,” said Mike Green, who is now an Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They know he has two years left, but they’re going to be all looking to see how he plays the game after this political setback.”

After two nights in Singapore, including one on which the president and first lady will attend a dinner with the prime minister, Mr. Bush will visit Vietnam for three nights. His first stop is Hanoi, where he will attend the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, a summit of Pacific Rim leaders and others seeking to open trade throughout the world.

At the annual summit, Mr. Bush will hold bilateral talks with leaders from South Korea, China and Japan, along with Mr. Putin, whom he met briefly during the red-carpet refueling stop yesterday. The four nations are part of six-party talks with North Korea, which has become increasingly bellicose, test-firing missiles on July 4 and detonating what specialists say was a nuclear device in October.

The talks, which include the United States and North Korea, have been stalled for a year, but aides to the communist nation’s President Kim Jong-il last month said the leader is open to restarting negotiations over its nuclear ambitions.

Also in Hanoi, Mr. Bush will tour the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command, where he will be briefed on efforts to locate or account for all of the nearly 1,800 U.S. service members still missing from the Vietnam War.

On Monday, Mr. Bush will spend a day in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, where he will tour the stock exchange and attend a meeting on bird flu, which has killed more than 100 people in Southeast Asia.


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