The world goes on

Shanghai: Crisis makes Bush presence at APEC summit more crucial.

October 19, 2001

PRESIDENT Bush is doing just what he should by going to the APEC summit in Shanghai and meeting one-on-one with the two superpower leaders there.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum was established in 1989 to promote trade and prosperity around the Pacific Rim. Leaders have not always known what the summits were for. But with the world facing recession, coordinating the revival effort at the highest level is essential.

A byproduct planned by the Chinese hosts was to show off Shanghai, rapidly becoming what it was in the 1920s: a commercial hub of Asia to rival Hong Kong, Singapore and, eventually, Tokyo.

Not only that, but 21 leaders of Pacific Rim nations from Papua New Guinea to Peru will meet in the world's third-tallest surviving glass skyscraper, unafraid.

The second major purpose President Bush has added to this meeting is his quest for support in the war on terrorism. The draft statement gave support for financial measures, without endorsing military action in Afghanistan.

But this makes the meeting a setting for major world political realignments, as both China and Russia push their friendly overtures on Washington.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin is doing everything he can to help, even deciding to pull his intelligence listening post out of Cuba after four decades.

Jiang Zemin's China has reversed its half-century of Maoist inwardness and engaged all its neighbors, some in friendship, others in rivalry, in the outward posture of a great regional power.

Each offers its price for intelligence and other cooperation in the fight against terrorists. That will include Washington's agreement that their adversaries fit a U.S. definition of terrorists. President Bush should seek to improve relations with each, but not give away the human-rights store.

The APEC conference comes at a bad time, but the timing makes it all the more essential for President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell to attend. They cannot allow terrorists to obstruct statecraft, especially statecraft combating terrorism.

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