APEC Ministers Focus Summit on Terrorism

Linking the threat of terror to their economic futures, Pacific Rim (search) leaders heeded U.S. warnings on Saturday and agreed to tough controls, but no ban, on portable missiles that can shoot down civilian aircraft.

They also resolved better coordination on bioterrorism, called for the restart of collapsed talks toward a new global trade pact, and promised to block "cross-border movement of equipment, funds and people involved in international terrorist activities."

The officials from the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (search) members wrapped up two days of talks that laid out an agenda for next week's annual summit of world leaders. This year's forum is leaning heavily toward the fight against terrorism even though the group's stated goal is to boost trade and investment.

They warned that prosperity is threatened by violent extremism as well as disease outbreaks like SARS.

Previewing a theme President Bush will press here, Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) said a meeting of world leaders on Monday will focus on security issues more than ever.

"Business leaders will invest where they believe not only their investment is safe, but their property and their employees are safe," he said.

APEC's host, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said leaders are "painfully aware that security and prosperity are inseparable" — and have been made even more so by the SARS outbreak, which devastated the travel industry in the hardest-hit parts of Asia.

However, Malaysia's Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz suggested APEC's agenda might "be growing too wide" for the group to be effective, the country's Bernama news agency reported.

Security worries were more than theoretical, as officials flew to Bangkok (search) amid news reports that several lightweight anti-aircraft missiles had been smuggled into Thailand.

But Thai officials have clamped down with tight security, providing fighter jet escorts for leaders — including Bush, who arrived Saturday night after a hurried state visit to the Philippines.

Immigration authorities also blacklisted hundreds of known anti-globalization activists and have warned local groups not to cause trouble, leaving little chance that protests which have marred other international trade conferences will erupt in Bangkok.

The joint statement issued Saturday by the trade and foreign ministers agreed to strengthen controls on the "production, stockpiles, transfer and brokering" of the portable anti-aircraft weapons.

In an address to the ministers, Powell said "no threat is more serious to aviation" as the handheld weapons, known as ManPADS, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.

Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of Soviet-style SA-7s are believed to be available on the international arms market and concerns about their use by terrorists have been on the rise.

The ministers rejected calls for a total ban, apparently out of concern for their own arms industries, but welcomed the new restrictions.

"These are missiles that could be used at any airport in any country of the world to bring down a passenger liner and create literally hundreds of lives lost," said New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff.

The forum also features collective concern about North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions. APEC brings together the leaders of South Korea, China, Russia and Japan along with Bush.

"The first objective is for all of us to work together for the sake of peace and security, particularly in your part of the world, to get rid of any nuclear weapons and/or ambitions for nuclear weapons," Bush told Japan's Fuji TV in advance of his trip.

Powell said the president will raise the year-old standoff over Pyongyang's suspected weapons programs when he meets Sunday with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The first round of six-party talks, held in August in Beijing, ended without agreement on when to hold the next round.

On Saturday, North Korea said it is not interested in talks on its nuclear weapons program unless the United States will discuss a nonaggression treaty. Powell said last week that Washington was exploring ways to offer North Korea some type of security guarantee, short of a formal treaty.

Some Asian ministers have also been angered by one of their co-delegates, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who this week said at a gathering of leaders from Islamic nations that "Jews rule the world by proxy."