HANOI, Vietnam – President Bush sought Chinese President Hu Jintao's help on dual fronts Sunday, aiming to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions and encourage the Chinese people to buy more U.S. goods.
Capping a three-day stay in Vietnam's capital, Bush also asked for help from Moscow in the North Korea nuclear dispute and celebrated a deal allowing Russia to join the World Trade Organization.
Here for an economic summit of 21 Pacific Rim nations, Bush coordinated strategy on North Korea in one-on-one sessions with all four of America's partners in the effort to rid Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons programs.
All the while, he feted America's new footing with host Vietnam, a communist country in an economic boom. Later Sunday, the president arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, the country's economic heart, for a day of events there.
The crowds that greeted Bush were larger and happier than any he saw in Hanoi. Locals laughed, waved and cheered, and some held American flags alongside Vietnamese ones. After landing, the Bushes met Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his wife for dinner.
National Security Council official David McCormick said Bush and Hu reached "an agreement on direction and next steps" on North Korea in a lengthy and specific discussion.
McCormick refused to characterize what the two leaders decided must happen next, saying only: "Both leaders are in a very similar position in terms of their views on this issue and next steps."
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley has said the North Koreans "cannot come back just to talk," but must take concrete steps to implement a year-old agreement to abandon its nuclear program.
In a pitch for U.S. manufacturers and farmers, Bush told his Chinese counterpart: "I strongly support your vision, Mr. President, of encouraging your country to become a nation of consumers and not savers."
This gentle nudge represented a change from past meetings, where last year's record and rising $202 billion trade deficit between the two countries — and complaints over lax Chinese enforcement of intellectual property rights — have produced more acrimonious exchanges.
The landscape is different now.
China has shown some support for enforcing U.N. sanctions enacted against North Korea after it tested a nuclear bomb last month, and was instrumental in persuading Pyongyang to agree to return to stalled six-party nuclear negotiations, perhaps by next month.
And in general, the administration has evolved from trying to arm-twist China on its economic policies to a less confrontational approach.
Among the perennial U.S. demands on China, most aimed at addressing the trade deficit: adopt a more flexible currency and promote more growth to encourage Chinese families to reduce extremely high savings rates and spend more.
"Obviously, with as much commerce between our countries as there is, there's going to be trade difficulties," Bush said. "But nevertheless, we both adopt a spirit of mutual respect and the desire to work through our problems."
The Chinese leader declared that trade was "expanding very rapidly" and offered Bush what he said was "a piece of good news to share." This turned out to be a recitation of four-month-old U.S. statistics the president had no doubt already heard, showing a 35 percent jump in exports to China in 2006, through July.
Bush met later with Russian President Vladimir Putin — their second gathering in a week. The two had a social visit at a Moscow airport as Bush flew to Asia.
The Sunday meeting followed the two countries' top trade officials signing of an agreement on Moscow's ascension into the WTO. Bush called it "good for the United States and good for Russia."
Russia has been the largest economy outside the 149-member WTO, which sets rules for global trade.
The deal took 12 years, after delays that had become a sore point on Moscow's side in the sometimes-frosty U.S.-Russian relationship. The Bush administration, meanwhile, has been critical of democratic erosions under Putin's leadership.
Also on Bush and Putin's agenda were the nuclear standoffs with North Korea and Iran.
Russia is a party with the United States and China to the nuclear talks with Pyongyang. Bush also met here Saturday with the leaders of the other participants, South Korea and Japan.
Much to the United States' delight, Russia voted for U.S.-backed United Nations sanctions on the nuclear test. Now Washington is seeking to overcome Russian reluctance toward an upcoming vote on U.N. sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
The threat from North Korea rated a statement by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum — but one that was only read out loud, falling short of what the United States sought. McCormick said the statement, read by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet at the end of the closed-door summit, said North Korea must return to talks and stop developing nuclear weapons, while urging nations to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang.
"The statement was very firm," McCormick said. "What was important was that the members of APEC came together on a common statement."
The White House also pronounced APEC language on trade a victory. The leaders declared fresh resolve to revive stalled talks on a global free-trade accord and agreed to look into a region-wide free trade zone, a priority of Bush's that has received little enthusiasm.
A White House statement on the summit said leaders "responded with characteristic courage" to Bush's call for a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.