Monday, August 4, 2008

Bush's Asia agenda: Thai friendship, Burma

US President George W Bush heads to Asia where he is to deliver a major policy speech in Thailand and liaise with Burma dissidents.

President Bush is due to arrive Tuesday in Seoul, where he will meet with President Lee Myung Bak, who visited the US in March at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. The two men are marking the 55th anniversary of US-South Korean ties.

The US president plans to arrive in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday for his second visit to the country, where he plans to meet with Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. The two leaders will also be marking an important anniversary in bilateral ties dating back 175 years.

The US president is to participate in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Summer Games in Beijing on Friday. During his four-day China stay from Thursday to Monday, Bush plans to meet President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and the Vice President Xi Jinping.

Against protests by political critics in the US, Bush has said he regards his attendance at the games as a purely a "sporting event."

Bush met last week, however, with Chinese dissidents, and the US House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the Chinese government to protect human rights and withdraw support from the governments of Burma and Sudan to protest human rights abuses in those two countries.

During his stay in the kingdom, Bush plans to highlight the role Thailand plays as a major non-NATO ally of the US and "one of our best relationships in East Asia," Dennis Wilder, a top official in the National Security Council, said last week.

"The president will congratulate the Thai people on the return to democracy in Thailand," Wilder said.

Bush's major address in Thailand will be on US policy in Asia and will look back on the Asia-related accomplishments of his eight years in office. He will also visit an HIV/AIDS center for children, the Mercy Center, White House officials said.

Burma's political situation will be on the agenda, with Bush planning to have lunch with Burmese activists and to offer broadcast interviews with the press in Thailand that are to be beamed into Burma.

First Lady Laura Bush plans to visit a refugee camp on the Thai- Burma border, the Mae La Refugee Camp.

The US first lady has been actively promoting human rights in Burma and protesting the abuses that followed protests by Buddhist monks and the Burma regime's initial blockade of aid workers who wanted to help survivors of the devastating cyclone Nargis in May.

In South Korea, Bush was expected to thank the government for reopening its markets to US bone-in beef for the first time in five years. Seoul had banned the imports after the US had several cases of mad cow disease.


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