SHANGHAI, China – After meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin face to face for the first time, President Bush said Friday he is sure that Beijing stands "side by side with the American people" during U.S. military action in Afghanistan.
The president met with Jiang and South Korean president Kim Dae Jung on the eve of the two-day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation economic summit.
Bush said he told the Chinese leader the United States will do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to bring Usama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network to justice.
"I look forward to continuing to describe our efforts to our close friends and allies. And they will see in me a determination to succeed. And I fully understand that some over time may grow weary and may tire. But they'll realize the United States of America under my leadership will not. We must be successful in the war against terror," he said.
The South Korean leader was unreserved in his support for the current military action. Jiang, however, was measured, saying the war should have clearly defined targets, accurately struck to avoid civilian casualties.
China condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and quickly offered anti-terrorism intelligence to the United States. But the Chinese have cautioned Bush previously that their support depends on the United States limiting casualties to only terrorists.
Beijing's leaders are reluctant to back military intervention in other nations, concerned about setting a precedent for outside action over China's own restive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.
Bush told reporters he is satisfied with Chinese cooperation on intelligence gathering and assistance in pursuing the financial assets of the Al Qaeda organization and its founder, Usama bin Laden.
"There was no hesitation, there was no doubt they'd stand with our people during this terrible time," Bush said.
For his part, Jiang told reporters that he is "pleased to note that recently, there's been an improvement in our ties."
During last year's presidential campaign, Bush once called China a "strategic competitor," but more recently the United States has been making a determined effort to improve relations.
Leaders check off many meeting items
Fighting in Afghanistan in retaliation for the Sept. 11 terror attacks has taken on another dimension since its launch Oct. 7. Thursday, Vice President Cheney said the campaign will soon move to special operations, but the president wouldn't confirm reports that U.S. troops had hit the ground in Afghanistan.
Bush refused to confirm a recent flurry of reports that U.S. special forces are in north and south of Afghanistan for ground combat. "I will not comment on ... military operations," he said.
Meanwhile, the 21 'economies' of the summit are down to 20. Taiwan walked out over China's refusal to seat its vice president as a delegate. China wouldn't let Taiwan send its government leader like every other country because China doesn't consider Taiwan a state, but rather a renegade province.
Jiang said he hoped the issue of Taiwan would be "properly addressed" by the United States, so that "there will be a bright future in our relations."
Bush said Beijing should take steps to ensure that regional stability endures. Bush also raised the issue of weapons proliferation, a reference to China's history of selling sensitive nuclear technology to other nations.
At the start of their one-on-one meeting, Bush told his Chinese counterpart, "You are president of a great nation. It's important for us to get to know each other."
Bush and Jiang met for about two hours at a guesthouse in the western suburbs of Shanghai. Bush emphasized missile proliferation and discussed the anti-terrorism campaign only in broad terms.
"I leave my country at a very difficult time," Bush said. "But this meeting is important because of the campaign against terrorism, because the ties between the two great nations, because of the opportunity and hope that trade provides to our people."
Referring to points of contention between Washington and Beijing, Jiang said, "China and the United States differ in conditions. So it's normal that there are disagreements between us."
It was not all talk of cooperation. Bush reminded Jiang that the U.S. opposes human rights abuses, raising a traditionally sensitive issue between the two countries. "The war on terrorism must never be an excuse to persecute minorities," Bush said.
Bush also used the occasion to speak of the anthrax cases cropping up in the United States. He said there was no direct link to foreign interests such as Al Qaeda or Iraq, but pledged: "Our nation will do what it takes to bring them to justice."
Bush did not rule out the possibility that the anthrax attacks are acts of domestic terrorism, and vowed to prosecute those who carry out anthrax hoaxes.
"Anybody who would mail anthrax letters to try to affect the lives of innocent people is evil," Bush said, thumping the lectern.
Bush spoke of the growth and beauty of Shanghai, and Jiang told Bush that Beijing, too, has made progress. "Of course, you may reserve your judgment until you see it with your own eyes," Jiang said. They discussed a visit Bush paid to China 26 years ago.
Afterward, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice dismissed reports from Russia that a breakthrough was imminent on differences between Washington and Moscow over Bush's plan to build a missile defense system. She said progress has been made on the issue, "but I would not suspect any breakthroughs in Shanghai."
Bush and Putin will meet Sunday as the APEC summit wraps up.
The president arrived in the gleaming port city of Shanghai Thursday evening and was greeted briefly at the airport by Chinese officials. A young girl gave him a bouquet of yellow roses and bluebonnets, symbols of his Texas roots.
Bush's first international trip since the attacks in New York and Washington drew extraordinary security. Air space was restricted over Shanghai, and 10,000 police officers guarded the streets. Boats patrolled the city's busy waterways.
The presidential motorcade whipped along clean, empty streets, past brightly-lit skyscrapers and Western retail outlets, to his hotel where Bush immediately retired for the night.
The actual summit will begin Saturday. Participants have already drawn up a communiqué condemning terrorism, but won't mention Usama bin Laden or his Taliban protectors. Still, it's the first time in the history of this gathering that it will issue a communiqué on political issues.
Some nations gathering for the APEC summit said they hoped U.S. attacks would end soon, exposing a possible split with Bush who says the strikes could last one or two years.
Bush said there's near unanimous support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism. However, the fact that the two largest Muslim countries at the summit, Indonesia and Malaysia, oppose the fighting in Afghanistan, doesn't help his effort to convince the Muslim world that his war on terrorism is not a war against Islam.
Fox News' Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.