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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 October, 2003, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
Terror war dominates Bush trip
The BBC's Rob Watson
By Rob Watson
BBC correspondent travelling with President Bush

It is being described as the most extensive swing through South East Asia by a US president since the end of the Vietnam War. In just eight days President Bush will breeze through Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.

Silk shirts to be worn by Apec leaders at the summit
The US wants Apec leaders to co-ordinate beyond wearing identical shirts
As ever, the tour will be a blur of state dinners, addresses to parliaments with the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit in Bangkok at its core.

So what's the point of it all? Well from the US perspective it is mainly about the war on terrorism.

The US considers South East Asia one of the main "fronts" in that war and is eager to encourage governments in the region to do more to fight Islamic extremists.

The sales pitch will be based on economics. Speaking before the trip, the president's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Mr Bush would "stress the need to put security at the heart of Apec's mission because prosperity and security are inseparable".

In other words, terrorism is bad for business.

To stress terrorism is a danger to the region and not just America, the president will visit Bali in Indonesia where more than 200 people were killed in a bomb attack last year.

Anti-Bush demonstration in Manila
Mr Bush can expect mixed reactions on many of his stops
And to fight off charges levelled by some Muslims that the war on terrorism is really a war on Islam, the president will meet what the White House calls moderate Muslim leaders in Indonesia.

And then of course there is Iraq. Though the White House insists the president is not on a begging mission for troops and money, it makes no secret that contributions would definitely be welcomed. The countries to watch most closely on that score are Japan and South Korea.

This being Asia, there is also sure to be discussion of what is widely seen as the biggest threat in the region - North Korea and its claims to have nuclear weapons.

The US is anxious to get as much help as possible in the area, especially from the Chinese, in pressuring Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Perennial matters

In end though, something that these days sounds decidedly old-fashioned may grab the headlines - trade and currency wars.

Manila police practise riot drills in advance of Mr Bush's trip
Security will be important throughout the trip
There is growing anger in the US at what is seen as the unfair trade practices of Japan and China, whom American businessmen and workers accuse of keeping their currencies low to make it easier to sell stuff in America.

It is a difficult issue for the president to tackle given his need for co-operation over Iraq and North Korea.

To some extent the trip is also about presidential thank-yous. No accident then that George W Bush will be stopping off in the Philippines, Singapore and Australia - all supporters of his foreign policy.

One final thought - security. It has become a cliche to talk about the intense security that now surrounds presidential visits and gatherings of world leaders. Get ready for a lot of cliches on this one.




SEE ALSO:
Bush hails 'sheriff' Australia
16 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Bush pledges Asia currency action
14 Oct 03  |  Business
Thailand's mass Apec clean-up
16 Oct 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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