Bush says U.S. to retain active presence in Asia


Fri Aug 31, 2007 10:44AM IST

CANBERRA (Reuters) - The United States will keep an active presence in Asia to ensure old tensions between China and Japan do not flare again, President George W. Bush said on Friday, ahead of a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Sydney.

Some analysts have criticised the United States for overlooking Asia because of its focus on Iraq and the Middle East, after Bush postponed a planed trip to Singapore next week to meet Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also pulled out of an ASEAN regional forum in the Philippines earlier this month.

"I've got good relations with both the Japanese and Chinese leadership," Bush told Australia's Sky television, in an interview broadcast on Friday, when asked if the United States should pay more attention to China's tensions with Japan.

"My view is that it is important for there to be an active U.S. presence in Asia, precisely to make sure that old tensions don't flare up."

Bush will arrive in Sydney on Tuesday for bilateral meetings with Australian Prime Minister John Howard ahead of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group meeting, which includes China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

During his time in Sydney, Bush and Howard will also hold joint talks with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as part of a trilateral security dialogue, a pact that has raised concerns from China.

Bush has attended every APEC meeting since taking office, but will leave APEC a day early so he can be in Washington for a briefing on Iraq from the U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Bush said the United States had a good relationship with Japan and China, and played down U.S. concerns about China's military build-up, saying he would only be concerned if Beijing became hostile.

"It only concerns me if there is hostility. It only concerns me if the government declares its hostility towards the world," Bush said.

China's most important issue, he said, was to keep its economy growing, with the country needing about 25 million new jobs a year to keep up its economic growth.

"So therefore my view of China is that they are internally focused to the extent that they want economic growth and vitality," Bush said.

"They're externally focused in order to get the raw materials they need, but if they ever turn hostile, I would be concerned about a military (build up)."