WASHINGTON – President Bush acknowledged Tuesday that a new agreement to realign America's military presence in Japan isn't welcomed by many on Okinawa, where many U.S. troops are based, but said the two governments negotiated the best plan they could.
Bush, who leaves Monday for a weeklong trip to Japan, South Korea, China and Mongolia, also said he would press Chinese President Hu Jintao to go further to halt the undervaluing of China's currency, which the United States contends gives Chinese goods an unfair trade advantage.
He said he would ask Hu to build on his promise, made when the two last met in New York in September, to reduce piracy of American movies, computer programs and other copyrighted material. Cracking down on intellectual property rights violations, which American companies say cost them billions each year, is crucial to China's economic growth, Bush said.
"People really don't want to do business in a country if they think their product is going to be — if the patents will be copied," he said in an interview with foreign reporters.
Speaking a day before the start of new six-party talks seeking to strip North Korea of its nuclear weapons programs, Bush played down expectations for the negotiations. With few predicting that much will come of the talks being held in Beijing, Bush portrayed their purpose as "really to prepare for the longer meetings, which will take place next month."
"There is a certain degree of patience required when it comes to negotiating a difficult issue," he said.
In September, Pyongyang agreed to give up its current nuclear weapons and renounce new ones in exchange for aid and a security guarantee.
Bush rejected Pyongyang's insistence upon a civilian reactor to produce electricity before it dismantles its nuclear program, an issue that the joint statement at the end of September's talks sidestepped.
"We want to see tangible results in the dismantling of a program, and at the appropriate time we'll discuss the light water reactor," the president said.
The president also toned down his rhetoric toward the communist regime in Pyongyang, two days after referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as a "tyrant" during a round-table discussion in Brazil.
Bush was asked what he should do to promote human rights and democracy in North Korea. He said "the measure, the mark of a good leader" is whether the leader cares about the condition of the people and allows citizens to have a voice in government, but did not directly criticize Kim or his regime. He also stressed he was not singling out North Korea, saying he also has "warned about the undermining of those values in other parts of the world."
Under the military realignment plan negotiated by the U.S. and Japanese governments, Tokyo will get greater responsibility for security in the Pacific and 7,000 Marines will go from Okinawa to the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam over six years. The Futenma Marine Corps Air Station on Okinawa would be closed and its functions moved to Camp Schwab.
There are about 50,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan, about half in Okinawa, where locals complain of crime, crowding and noise associated with the American bases.
Okinawa's governor says a plan to build a new U.S. heliport on Okinawa is unacceptable and many Okinawans want Futenma removed altogether.
"It's hard to satisfy all the people all the time," Bush said. "This is a good-faith effort. We tried to reach an accord that accommodated a lot of interests."