Bush Exhorts Beijing to Grant Greater Freedoms

In Japan, President Bush delivers a speech urging Beijing to grant basic freedoms to the Chinese people — citing China's political rival, Taiwan, as an example of a successful democracy. The comments are likely to create tension during Sino-U.S. meetings this weekend in China.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

President Bush began a weeklong trip in Asia today. He visited a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, and sat down with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. As NPR's David Greene reports, one of Mr. Bush's goals in Japan was to lay the groundwork for delicate meetings he's planned in China this weekend.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

In a speech in Kyoto, Mr. Bush's message to China was unmistakable. It is time, he said, for them to speed up on the path to serious democratic reform. It's not unusual for a US president to lean on China to extend rights to its people, but Mr. Bush was especially provocative. He brought up Taiwan as a shining example of successful democracy.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: By embracing freedom at all levels, Taiwan has delivered prosperity to its people and created a free and democratic Chinese society.

GREENE: After praising Taiwan--which is viewed by China as a renegade province and not a place to emulate--the president said he had spoken to Chinese President Hu Jintao about democratic reforms.

Pres. BUSH: President Hu has explained to me his vision of peaceful development, and he wants his people to be more prosperous. I pointed out that the people of China want more freedom to express themselves, to worship without state control, to print Bibles and other sacred texts without fear of punishment.

GREENE: The White House said Mr. Bush did not intend to lecture the Chinese. Mr. Bush did thank China for its contribution to the so-called six-party talks which are aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Now Mr. Bush has moved on to South Korea for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. He also has talks planned with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, and North Korea is supposed to be a big part of their conversation. North Korea agreed in principle in September to end its nuclear weapons programs, but no details have been hatched out. Michael Green, an Asian specialist in the White House, told reporters that Mr. Bush is aware of how carefully South Korea must tread on the issue since, as he put it, `Seoul is as close to the DMZ and North Korean artillery as the White House is to Dulles Airport.' David Greene, NPR News, Pusan, South Korea.

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