Asia Gives Muted Welcome to Bush’s 2nd Term


2004.11.05
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WASHINGTON—Most Asian countries welcomed U.S. President George W. Bush’s re-election as a boost for the global war on terror, anticipating more trade pacts and jobs, worsening Muslim insurgencies, and a need for deft diplomacy in dealing with North Korea and tensions over Taiwan.

"I look forward to continuing to work together with you to further promote the development of the constructive cooperative relations between China and the United States.”

"I look forward to continuing to work together with you to further promote the development of the constructive cooperative relations between China and the United States," Chinese President Hu Jintao said on learning of Bush’s election victory.

Hu said China and the United States by working together had played "a positive role in promoting peace and development in Asia Pacific and the rest of the world.” Hu is expected to use talks with Bush later this month to press for help in checking Taiwan independence-seekers .

Beijing has vowed to reunify Taiwan with the mainland, by force if necessary, and is convinced the island's President Chen Shui-bian wants to lead the self-governed democracy of 23 million people to formal independence.

U.S.-China summit

Hu will meet the U.S. president on the sidelines of an Asia Pacific summit in Chile, an occasion that Vice Foreign Minister Zhou Wenzhong called pivotal for Sino-U.S. relations during Bush's second term.

U.S.-China ties took a hit when Bush began his first term by calling China a “strategic competitor” and vowed to do “whatever it takes” to defend Taiwan. But ties improved steadily after Beijing backed the war on terror after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

On Monday, an opinion piece by former foreign minister Qian Qichen in a government-run newspaper, China Daily , chastised an "arrogant" United States for trying to "rule the world."

Speaking at the National Press Club, Bonnie Glaser—a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)—said China/Taiwan issues wouldn’t be “very high on the agenda” of the next administration.

Iraq still top priority

“We are at war. We are still in Iraq. We are at war on terrorism across the globe. We have great concerns about proliferation, the possibility of Iran and North Korea becoming nuclear states. These are, I think, the really high priorities for the United States."

“We are at war. We are still in Iraq. We are at war on terrorism across the globe. We have great concerns about proliferation, the possibility of Iran and North Korea becoming nuclear states. These are, I think, the really high priorities for the United States,” she said. But she also cited “growing concern in Washington” that as Taiwan revises its constitution, cross-Straits stability may be threatened

Former U.S. deputy assistant defense secretary Kurt Campbell, now director of the International Security Program at CSIS, predicted that Washington would expand its role in calling for peaceful dialogue between Beijing and Taipei.

“I believe there will be a very clear message emanating from Washington to both sides to be very, very careful in the period ahead. And I think that that’s likely to be a stronger message than the message we have heard in the past,” he said.

North Korean issues looming

South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun meanwhile said his government "will cooperate more closely with the U.S. administration for a peaceful settlement to the North Korean nuclear issue."

Six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions are deadlocked with the Stalinist state believed to have been waiting for the outcome of the U.S. election. Sen. John Kerry, Bush’s rival, had called for direct bilateral dialogue with Pyongyang.

North Korea will pose a major challenge for the next Bush administration, and analysts expect Bush to show some flexibility in resolving a stand-off over the Stalinist regime's nuclear ambitions.

"I expect some flexibility because the Bush administration cannot afford to allow this situation in Northeast Asia to become more tense or to threaten a military action," said Edward Reed, Seoul-based representative of the Asia Foundation.

Six-party talks stalled

Pyongyang snubbed a fourth round of six-nation talks scheduled for September, citing Washington's "hostile policy" among its reasons, but analysts said Bush—already stretched in Iraq—couldn’t afford military engagement in the region.

"If North Korea keeps refusing to abandon its nuclear program, Bush would shift to a 'Plan B' focusing on heaping multi-pronged pressure on Pyongyang," said Yun Duk-min, a nuclear arms expert at Seoul's state-run Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security.

Days after Bush’s re-election, Pyongyang signaled its hope for concessions before it will even discuss ending its nuclear weapons drive.

"Such discussions are possible only when we see evidence of a substantial change in the U.S. policy towards North Korea," said Han Song-Ryol, deputy chief of North Korea's U.N. mission, in an interview published in Seoul.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon cautioned that Han's comments may not fully reflect Pyongyang's policy towards the next administration."I don't think his comment reflects North Korea's official position," he said in a South Korean radio talk show.

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