TOYAKO, Hokkaido — U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda agreed Sunday to keep pressuring North Korea on both the nuclear and abduction issues, in an apparent bid to counter criticism in Japan that Washington is abandoning Tokyo by adopting a policy of “appeasement” toward Pyongyang.
Bush told Fukuda that he will not “abandon” the Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents during the Cold War, the two leaders said at a news conference after their meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit.
They agreed that the bilateral defense alliance has been greatly strengthened during the past eight years under the Bush administration and called on North Korea to accelerate the process of abandoning its nuclear programs.
Bush’s remarks on the abductions were an apparent effort by the two leaders to soothe the emotional reaction of the Japanese public to U.S. moves toward taking the North off its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
They met ahead of the three-day G8 summit involving the U.S., Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and Canada starting Monday. The eight leaders will discuss global issues, including climate change, African development, soaring food and oil prices, and nuclear nonproliferation.
Whether Bush and Fukuda could forge a breakthrough on climate change was the focus of Sunday’s bilateral talks, in particular whether Bush would respond to Fukuda’s request to agree to a global target of halving world greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
But in their news conference after the talks, the two leaders only said they recognized that global warming is a serious problem and did not reveal any details of their discussions on this issue.
“Climate change is one of the most serious challenges humanity is facing. The G8 members should continue their efforts to leave a beautiful Earth for our descendants, and that’s our common understanding,” Fukuda said at the news conference.
“There needs to be a common understanding and that starts with a goal,” Bush said, mentioning a long-term goal proposed by Japan and European Union to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
“I also will be realistic enough to tell you that if China and India don’t share the same aspiration, we are not going to solve the problem,” he said.
Tokyo is trying to form any agreement to promote international negotiations on a post-Kyoto Protocol framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, but the U.S. has argued that a framework not involving China and India would be meaningless and thus has refused to set any ambitious goals for itself.
The focus is now on whether Bush will make any concessions during Tuesday’s sessions on climate change, and how China and India would respond during Wednesday’s “outreach” sessions of the G8 and eight invited guest countries.
Developing states including China and India have argued that they won’t set any goals for themselves without bold emissions cuts by developed countries first.
The eight guest countries invited for the outreach session on climate change are China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, Australia and South Korea.
During the news conference, Bush emphasized that the U.S. will firmly maintain the value of the dollar against other currencies in an apparent bid to prevent global inflation.
“In terms of the dollar, the United States believes in a strong-dollar policy and believes that the strength of our economy will be reflected in the dollar,” he said.
He did not, however, discuss currency issues with Fukuda during their meeting, according to senior Japanese officials who briefed reporters.
At the news conference, Fukuda officially announced that he will attend the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.
He said a sporting event should not be connected with political issues, and insisted that China is now striving for progress on “various issues,” apparently alluding to human rights and democratization. He did not disclose any further details.
Additional reporting by Kanako Takahara and Jun Hongo