Bush gets cautious nod on U.S. military action from China

Saturday, October 20, 2001

SHANGHAI, China -- Cautioned by China to spare innocent civilians in Afghanistan attacks, President Bush urged wavering Asian nations to stand up to terrorists. He faced resistance Saturday from Malaysia, whose leader wants the United States to stop bombing Afghanistan.

On the eve of an economic summit here, the president declared, "All civilized nations must join together to defeat this threat."

Bush met Chinese President Jiang Zemin for the first time Friday and praised him for sharing intelligence on terrorists' activities and helping to cut off financing to their organizations. The Chinese leader, in turn, cautioned Bush about U.S. military strikes against the terrorist-harboring Taliban.

The remarks reflected the sentiments of many leaders joining Bush at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, which formally opens Saturday. The APEC leaders are expected to approve a statement against terrorism without mentioning U.S. strikes on Afghanistan.

In what could be a ticklish session, Bush meets today with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who recently denounced the Afghanistan raids. "We are against such an attack because I don't think it is going to help in combatting terrorism," Mahathir said.

U.S. officials believe the al-Qaida group of Osama bin Laden, the top suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, has been trying to build ties with Islamic militants in Malaysia.

One of the suspected suicide hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, was shown to be visiting Malaysia early this year, appearing on a surveillance videotape meeting with a suspected bin Laden associate.

Malaysia is one of three Muslim-dominated nations in APEC. Brunei and Indonesia are the others.

Sympathy from Brunei

Bush also meets today with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, who expressed sympathy with the United States after the attacks.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, in an Oval Office meeting with Bush after the attacks on Washington and New York, was one of the first foreign leaders to sign up for the anti-terrorism campaign. Upon her return home, under pressure from anti-U.S. political forces, she hardened her stance against bombing.

The Bush-Jiang meeting at a government guest house was conducted around a bed of 1,000 roses that separated the leaders by about eight feet. The divide reflected the distance in their relationship.

White House aides said the Bush-Jiang relationship, though improved, is not nearly as warm as the one between the president and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bush meets Putin on Sunday, capping three days of wartime diplomacy carried out halfway around the world from an American public rattled by anthrax threats.

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