By DENIS D. GRAY/ AP WRITER
The Irrawaddy News
BANGKOK-US — President George W Bush, preparing to embark on a three-country Asian trip, has countered critics who claim his global war on terrorism has lessened Washington's role in Asia and allowed China's influence to grow in the region, news reports said Friday.
"Our foreign policy has been robust in the Far East," Bush said in White House interviews with editors from Thailand, South Korea and China on Thursday. The US president, on a farewell tour of Asia, will visit the three countries August 5-11.
While in Thailand, he is to deliver a "comprehensive" policy speech on Asia stressing that the US has strategic interests in the region and "must stay engaged," Thailand's English-language The Nation said Friday.
Another theme of his trip will be human rights. He is to meet with activists opposed to the military regime in Burma during his Bangkok stay and will raise human rights and religious issues when he meets President Hu Jintao of China during the Olympic Games.
"I am going to China this time as the US president who happens to be a sports fan," The Nation quoted him as saying.
Bush countered critics of his Asia policy, the Bangkok Post said in its report of the interview.
"In terms of foreign policy in the Far East, it is mistaken if someone were to say that my preoccupation was on the war on terror," he said. "Our relations with your country (Thailand), South Korea, with Japan and China have never been stronger. And it took a lot of work to get bilateral relations as strong as they are."
Bush said he viewed the growth of China and India as positive.
"India and China and the US will provide great opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses throughout the region," he said. "It'll provide opportunities to work collaboratively on strong strategic areas, security areas ... On the environment."
Bush stressed the need for the US to work through multilateral efforts like the six-party talks on North Korea.
"Our vision is, once that issue gets solved, if North Korea verifiably gives up its weapons, programs, ambitions, then the six-party talks can serve as another (multilateral) mechanism," he said.
Despite the farewell nature of his Asian swing, Bush said that in his Bangkok speech he will stress that he is not fading away as the time for his exit from office nears.
"I will also remind people that I will be sprinting to the finish, that I will finish this job strong," he said.