Line between terror and trade blurred at meeting of APEC nation

Saturday, October 26, 2002

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico -- Pacific Rim CEOs and diplomats insisted Friday that security and economics are becoming the same discipline, saying an interdependent world must tackle terrorism, trade and development as a single challenge with many fronts.

Participants in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum are outlining what they consider a blueprint for human safety and prosperous trade in the 21st century -- one that recognizes overlap and distributes the effort among nations and corporations.

"Globalization has turned the world into an interconnected village -- a village where if a house burns, no one is safe," said Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the deputy prime minister of Malaysia.

APEC is an economic alliance, but its focus since last year's meeting in Shanghai -- weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States -- has been terrorism and its effect on trade. While some lament the focus on security over commerce, a resounding chorus has pronounced them flip sides of the same issue.

"We must achieve both, or we have not addressed the challenge of terrorism," said Lawrence Greenwood, the U.S. ambassador to APEC.

"We are going to be as strong as the weakest link," he said. "The slowest must move fast, or all our security is in jeopardy."

Russian president cancels

Top diplomats of the 21 APEC economies have been meeting in the Los Cabos resort area at the tip of the Baja California peninsula. On Thursday and Friday, they were joined by CEOs of Pacific Rim corporations, and a weekend summit on APEC's core mission, trade liberalization, is drawing heads of state from across the region.

One notable exception: Russian President Vladimir Putin canceled his trip to stay in Moscow and deal with a hostage crisis carried out by Chechen insurgents, who want Russian troops out of Chechnya. The Kremlin is condemning that attack as terrorism, too.

Unlike many attacks traditionally defined as acts of terror, the Moscow hostage siege was designed to accomplish one immediate goal rather than solely sow fear. But Greenwood said the American government also considers it a terrorist act.

"Clearly, we see that as a form of terrorism," Greenwood said at a news conference on the APEC sidelines.

On Friday, an enormous bubble tent where Pacific Rim leaders including President Bush were to dine this weekend collapsed. Officials said there were no injuries. It did not appear that any of the government or business leaders attending this week's forum were near the tent when it fell.

Keeping calm

Also high on the agenda for Pacific Rim leaders was North Korea's revelation this month that it was developing nuclear weapons, alarming countries across the world but especially the insular regime's neighbors in northeast Asia.

"It is important to keep calm and maintain flexibility," said Hisashi Owada, president of the Japan Institute of International Affairs.

He said the North Korean situation illustrates the need for Japan to develop a stronger military. Japan's military activity has been restricted since just after World War II, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur drew up a new constitution following Tokyo's surrender.

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