President Bush on Sunday defended removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and attending the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics as world leaders assembled to address soaring gas prices, climate change and African aid.
They faced major differences, especially on how far to go in setting limits on pollutants that contribute to global warming.
The host of this year's Group of Eight summit, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, and other leaders would like to see the top industrialized nations and other fast-growing economies, such as China and India, pledge a 50 percent cut by 2015 in the emissions that contribute to global warming. The Bush administration has shown no enthusiasm for such a commitment without cooperation from the Chinese and Indians.
“I've always advocated that there needs to be a common understanding, and that starts with a goal. And I also am realistic enough to tell you that if China and India don't share that same aspiration, that we're not going to solve the problem,” Bush said at a pre-summit news conference with Fukuda.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The leaders of the U.S., Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Canada and Russia planned to kick off the meeting Monday at a remote mountaintop resort overlooking a lake formed by a volcanic crater on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The session ends Wednesday with a larger gathering that brings in eight additional countries – Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea and South Africa.
At a news conference with Fukuda, Bush defended his decision to attend the Olympics opening ceremonies Aug. 8. Among the leaders who plan to skip that event are British Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering not attending.
China's role as host has focused attention on its human rights record and the security crackdown in Tibet.
“The Chinese people are watching very carefully about the decisions by world leaders and I happen to believe that not going to the opening ceremony for the games would be an affront to the Chinese people, which may make it more difficult to be able to speak frankly with the Chinese leadership,” the president said.
Bush also addressed Japanese concerns over the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korea in the '70s and '80s. Those abducted apparently were used to train North Korean agents in Japanese language and customs.
Japanese citizens are upset about the U.S. move to remove North Korea from the State Department's terror blacklist in exchange for the North's decision to admit some of its nuclear weapons work and begin dismantling nuclear facilities.
As a condition for sending aid and improving relations with the impoverished North, Japan long has pushed for the resolution of the issue of the abductions.
Bush recalled a White House meeting a few years ago with Sakie Yokota, the mother of a 13-year-old Japanese girl kidnapped by North Koreans agents on her way home from school in 1977. “As a father of little girls, I can't imagine what it would be like to have my daughter just disappear,” Bush said at the news conference. “So, Mr. Prime Minister, as I told you on the phone when I talked to you and in the past, the United States will not abandon you on this issue.”