Howard, Bush firm on Iraq

10/01/2019 Posted by admin

“We can work together to reinforce the need for China to accept certain values as universal,” Mr Bush said after talks with Mr Howard at the White House, specifically citing minority rights, freedom of speech and to worship freely.

“We are going to differ with China on human rights issues,” Mr Howard said, adding that Australia’s relationship with China is “mature enough to ride through temporary arguments such as that.”

Speaking at a joint press conference, the two leaders emphasised their close personal relationship and their political victories at home against the backdrop of a bloody insurgency in Iraq that shows few signs of diminishing.

“It’s always good to visit with a friend about how he sees the world,” said Mr Bush.

“I admire John Howard a lot. He’s a man of conviction. He’s got backbone. He’s not afraid to make the hard decision, he’s not afraid to lead.”

Mr Howard noted that Mr Bush had congratulated him on winning re-election in October, while he telephoned the president after his “remarkable victory” in the November 2 US election.

“The personal relationship that we have established on behalf of our two countries means a great deal to me,” said Mr Howard, one of Mr Bush’s most stalwart backers in the US-led March 2003 invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Asked when Australian forces in that war-torn country would start to return home, Mr Howard ruled out setting a timetable or withdrawing before Iraqi forces can ensure security and have built the foundations of a democracy.

“I’m not going to try and put a time limit on our commitment in Iraq. I’m not,” he said. “We will stay the distance in Iraq. We won’t go until the job has been finished.

Mr Bush said that US forces would come home “as quickly as possible, but we’ve got to complete the mission,” adding that setting a timetable “doesn’t make any sense” because it would “embolden” the people behind the violence there.

On other issues, the two leaders celebrated the US-Australia free trade agreement that took effect on January 1, and Mr Bush said he had discussed the six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Mr Bush said he told Mr Howard that Washington wanted to end the dispute “in a diplomatic way” and that the United States was “sincere about working with China and South Korea and Japan and Russia to bring some common sense to the leader of North Korea,” Kim Jong-Il.

The reclusive leader recently agreed to a new round of six-country talks, now scheduled for July 25.

Mr Bush and Mr Howard said they had discussed Asia-Pacific issues, with the prime minister placing special importance of the future of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, to the outcome of the war on terrorism.

“If Indonesia is a success story, it can be held up as an example to the rest of the Islamic world that the path forward, the path to prosperity and stability is a path away from hatred and extremism and a path of moderation,” said Mr Howard.

Much of their public remarks focused on China, with Mr Bush praising the expansion of economic ties but citing “difficulties” with China’s currency peg and on issues related to intellectual property.

The president also praised China’s role in the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program.

Mr Howard said he was “optimistic” about relations with China and repeatedly dismissed concerns that the United States and the Asian powerhouse were on course for some “inevitable dust-up” over issues like Taiwan.

“I have a more optimistic view about the relationship between China and the United States. And I know that the leadership of both countries understands the importance of common sense in relation to Taiwan, a recognition that there are differences of philosophy between the two societies,” said Mr Howard.

“I think China sees a growing place for herself in the world, but I think there’s a great level of pragmatism in the Chinese leadership,” he added.

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