October 4, 2001 | Executive Summary on Asia
President Bush has two important goals at the October 18-20 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in Shanghai. He must advance his trade agenda, but that mission is clearly overshadowed by the war against terrorism. Asia will be a major theater of operations. Although the summit will center on trade and economic priorities, President Bush's own focus must be on mobilizing Asian allies for victory over international terror.
The APEC summit gives the President a unique venue to confer directly with key Asia-Pacific partners on a wartime strategy for East Asia. He should spend his time with leaders who can assist the anti-terrorist effort. His meeting schedule should prioritize those APEC leaders who are important allies and friends in the war on terror--Australia, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia--and allow time with China's leaders.
On September 14, Australia invoked the ANZUS mutual defense treaty for the first time. Australian Prime Minister John Howard confirmed that "Overall command on this occasion be in American hands." Intelligence cooperation is underway, Australia's navy will support the U.S. fleet, and even troop deployments are possible. President Bush owes this "Southern Pillar" of U.S. defenses in the Pacific a one-on-one strategy meeting in Shanghai.
Japan has already pledged needed military, naval, and medical support, but its essential contribution will be in the reconstruction of war-torn Central Asian economies. Although Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was in Washington on September 25, another substantive Bush-Koizumi meeting at Shanghai is in order, if only to review the progress of the previous weeks.
South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has volunteered Korea's full involvement "as a close ally in the spirit of the Mutual Defense Treaty." Since President Bush has cancelled his visit to Seoul, he must place a strategy session with President Kim at the top of his APEC meeting schedule.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is also on the "must-see" list. Not only is the Philippines a close ally, but Philippine intelligence services have worked closely with U.S. counterparts tracking the Osama bin Laden network since 1995. The Philippines also has taken steps to bring Malaysia and riot-wracked Indonesia quietly into the anti-terror battle.
Another "must-see" is Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. Though small, Singapore has great influence among its Southeast Asian neighbors, is a major world financial center with strict government supervision of international financial movements, and is the only non-ally in Asia to spend its own funds to build a base for the primary use of the U.S. Navy.
The President must also meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Malaysia is not yet part of the war on terrorism, but the Bush Administration should encourage Mahathir to join the Philippine initiative against terrorism. Malaysia for years has opposed political radicalism in the name of Islam, and its police and security forces cooperate with Washington and train with the American military.
If time permits, the President may also spend time with leaders from Thailand and Taiwan. Little time need be spent with the unenthusiastic New Zealand, and Indonesia has its own terrorist crisis--one targeting Americans in particular--and is doing nothing about it. The other Asian APEC members are marginal to the war effort, at best.
President Bush's formal address to APEC leaders should underscore the financial intelligence aspect of the strategy against terrorism. APEC would also be an appropriate venue to discuss bilateral free trade agreements with Australia and Singapore.
China (this year's APEC host and a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council) demands "clear evidence" of bin Laden-Taliban guilt before American action and links "terrorism" with Taiwan "splittism." The President should not haggle with the Chinese (certainly not over Taiwan) but should clearly state his case and move on. Beijing has at least offered financial intelligence and aid in "rescue efforts" (including, perhaps, letting damaged U.S. planes land at Chinese bases). However, it will be important that China not complicate matters in the U.N. or hamper Hong Kong in providing financial intelligence. President Bush must raise these issues with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Trade was to have been a focus of the President's now-cancelled Beijing trip, but the approval of China's World Trade Organization (WTO) membership makes this moot. A complicating factor is that China' leaders are now preoccupied with the political succession of a "Fourth Generation" to the top leadership at the 16th Party Congress in October 2002. They are also frustrated by ballooning unpaid social welfare, pension, and unemployment obligations that may be greater than China's GNP. President Bush may find the Chinese concerned more about domestic stability than about aiding a U.S. war effort.
John J. Tkacik is Research Fellow for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia, Dana R. Dillon is Senior Policy Analyst for Southeast Asia, and Balbina Hwang is a Policy Analyst on Northeast Asia in the Asia Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation. Sara J. Fitzgerald is a Policy Analyst in the Center for International Trade and Economics at The Heritage Foundation.