APEC turns focus to bird flu, terror

Asia-Pacific leaders are turning the focus of their annual summit to the potential catastrophe a global flu pandemic would wreak in their countries and the lingering menace of terrorism.

Worries over a flu pandemic are spreading in Asia
Worries over a flu pandemic are spreading in Asia

Security issues were expected to dominate the second and final day of talks among the 21 leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, including US President George Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin.


On Friday, the leaders concentrated trying to find ways and revive global trade talks that have stalled because of disputes over European farming subsidies.


The leaders are expected to formally adopt two statements later on Saturday: one strongly supporting the World Trade Organization’s current round of free trade negotiations and the wide-ranging Busan Declaration, dealing with free trade among members, and promising greater cooperation in combating terrorism and bird flu.


With a key WTO meeting due to be held in Hong Kong next month, the leaders made it clear on Friday they wanted the European Union to make more concessions on agriculture.


“We’re basically saying that now the ball is in Europe‘s court,” South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon told journalists after Friday’s talks.


“The last thing that any nation can afford…is to in any way hide or cover up the onset of the signs of an outbreak of something that could turn into a pandemic”

John Howard
Australian Prime Minister

Australia and Canada wanted the statement to name Europe as the main blockage in the WTO, but other leaders objected because they did not want to single any country or region out for criticism, officials said.


“You don’t have to name names, it’s quite obvious who are the people,” the statement will be directed at, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo told The Associated Press on Saturday.




The leaders will also take part on Saturday in the APEC tradition of donning traditional costumes from the host nation for an official photo: durumagi, or Korean silk overcoats in a rainbow of pastel colors.


The leaders assembled on Saturday in a newly built muffin-shaped villa on the South Korean coast, named Nurimaru house – a new Korean word meaning “pinnacle of the world”.


Heavy security surrounds the villa, including naval cordons and helicopters, to protect against the threat of attack and keep demonstrations far away.


On Saturday morning, about 300 anti-APEC protesters blocked an intersection in the city away from the villa, surrounded by a force of about 1000 police.  


Tight security has kept protestsat a distance from the summit

Tight security has kept protests
at a distance from the summit

As the leaders met on Friday, stone-throwing protesters clashed with riot police who sprayed them with high-powered water hoses within sight of the summit venue but separated by a river, leaving the meeting undisturbed.


The marchers, led by thousands of farmers angry about plans to liberalize South Korea’s rice market, chanted slogans and carried signs reading “Get rid of APEC” and “Let’s get Bush”.


Pandemic fears


In their final declaration, the leaders will support free trade and express strong concern about terrorism and bird flu, according to a draft seen by The Associated Press.


Fears of possible human pandemic spawned by bird flu have grown in recent days with China announcing its first human cases.


Bush is expected to make bird flu a major focus, and APEC leaders are expected to agree to boost their preparedness.


Australian Prime Minister John Howard urged countries to put aside “national pride or self-consciousness” and be open about reporting outbreaks.


“The last thing that any nation can afford, not only in its own interests but in the interests of fellow members of the world community, is to in any way hide or cover up the onset of the signs of an outbreak of something that could turn into a pandemic,” he said.

Source : AFP

More from News
Most Read