Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Looks toward Asia

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton Looks toward Asia

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Clinton is concentrating this weekend on an area rich with promise for the United States - Asia and the Pacific.

After his foreign policy team's problems in Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti, it must be a relief for the president to turn to a part of the world where his administration has shown foresight and imagination.

Unfortunately, it is a region that also contains a potential crisis - North Korea. The crisis has in part been heightened by the administration's weakness in just such areas as Bosnia, Somalia, and Haiti.

In Seattle this week, Mr. Clinton has seized the opportunity to meet with leaders from 14 other Pacific Rim countries. Ostensibly he is in Seattle for the annual ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, a little-known but increasingly significant organization dedicated to regional economic cooperation. But at an "informal conference" after the APEC meeting, Clinton is convening what, in effect, is the first Asia-Pacific summit. (The "informal" designation is designed to circumvent such political delicacies as bringing China and Taiwan together).

The conference will enable the president to do several things:

* Develop personal relationships with key Asian leaders.

* Focus American and international attention on a vibrant part of the world that is growing faster economically than any other region.

* Significantly advance his concept of a "New Pacific Community" that he outlined in his speech in Tokyo last July.

The Seattle meetings will consider liberalization of trade and investment restrictions among the participating nations, and ponder the long-term prospect of an Asia-Pacific free trade area.

The president will need to be deft. Some Asian and Pacific leaders fear that the ebullient US may try to dominate APEC. Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, for one, favors an Asian trade grouping that would exclude Western powers like the US, Canada, and Australia. …

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