Agenda Items for President Bush's Asian Trip

Report Asia

Agenda Items for President Bush's Asian Trip

October 16, 2003 3 min read

Authors: Dana Dillon and Balbina Hwang

President Bush's travel to attend the APEC leaders' summit in Bangkok on Monday will include a six-day, six-country tour of Asia. Visiting these key Asia-Pacific countries is an important statement regarding U.S. foreign policy goals. 


On the way to the APEC meeting, the President will stop in Japan and the Philippines. Following the summit, he will visit Singapore, and Indonesia -- including a three-hour stop in Bali -- on his way to Australia.


Visits with the leaders of these countries will provide an opportunity for President Bush to push for interests of mutual concern. In addition to the issues the President will advance at APEC, during these visits, his agenda should include the following.



  • Reaffirm the U.S.-Japan alliance as one of the cornerstones of stability and prosperity in North East Asia. President Bush should also acknowledge Japan's important contribution to the war on terrorism and the reconstruction efforts in Iraq. In addition, he should urge continued cooperation in Missile Defense.
  • Confirm Japan's critical role in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. Japan's continued cooperation and support for the U.S. position regarding North Korea greatly enhances the prospects of creating a multilateral resolution to the standoff.
  • Encourage continued efforts towards economic reforms and restructuring. As the world's second largest economy, a robust Japanese economy is essential to global and regional economic prosperity.


  • Thank President Arroyo for Philippine's support for the war on terrorism.
  • Decline to increase military assistance above the current robust programs.
  • Offer programs to develop all elements of Philippine law enforcement to help fight terrorism.
  • Insist on a negotiated settlement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and offer targeted economic assistance to promote peace on Mindanao.
  • Encourage Manila's participation in the President's Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative, but do not offer unilateral trade privileges. Instead, offer to negotiate a mutually beneficial free trade agreement, similar to those with Singapore and Thailand.
  • Ask President Arroyo to support American sanctions against Burma.


  • Announce that negotiations will begin on a Free Trade Agreement with Thailand.
  • Thank Prime Minister Thaksin for his help in the war on terrorism, including sending troops to Iraq and apprehending Jemaah Islamiyah mastermind Hambali.
  • Ask for Bangkok's support for American sanctions on Burma.


  • Thank Singapore for its leadership in pushing for free and open trade throughout the region.
  • Thank President Nathan for his support in the war on terrorism.
  • Ask for Singapore's support for sanctions against Burma.

Bali, Indonesia:

  • Take a hard line on terrorism. President Megawatti and her Vice President, Hamzah Haz, have lost no opportunity to criticize the United States and the war on terrorism.
  • Point out to President Megawatti that Indonesia is a victim of terrorism and that her government must do more to combat terrorism and radicalism.
  • Remind Megawatti that Southeast Asia's terrorists, Jemaah Islamiyah, are not fighting for Palestine, but to create a pan-Islamic state across the Southeast Asian archipelago.
  • Assure President Megawatti that the United States supports and defends the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Indonesia. Nevertheless, stress that the government of Indonesia is responsible for the lives and property of all its citizens and that fighting an insurgency is not an excuse for human rights abuses.
  • Declare that the United States expects a full accounting for the murder of the two Americans in Papua.
  • Inform President Megawatti that full military-to-military relations will not be restored until the government of Indonesia meets three conditions: (1) instituting civilian control of the military; (2) creating a transparent military budget; and (3) making military personnel subject to civil law.
  • Meet with Indonesia's moderate Muslim leaders-particularly the leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama, which is the world's largest Muslim organization with 40 million members, and the 25-million-strong Muhammadiyah.


  • Thank Prime Minister Howard for Australia's support for the war on terrorism.
  • Comment on Australia's activist foreign policy and the responsible role Australia plays in the region.
  • Commend Australia on its patience and determination to complete a Free Trade Agreement with the United States and express the goal of concluding negotiations before the end of this year.

President Bush's visit to these key Asia-Pacific countries is an important statement regarding U.S. foreign policy goals. In this time of global turmoil, the support of America's allies and friends in Asia is critical to U.S. security and economic interests. The President's trip throughout the Pacific region will garner crucial support and cement friendly relationships.


Dana Dillon
Dana Dillon

Policy Analyst

Balbina Hwang
Balbina Hwang

Former Senior Policy Analyst