MANILA In a visit filled with symbolism of the war on terror, President Bush pledged Saturday in the Philippines to root out terrorism in Southeast Asia and urged Asian nations to join the battle.
With both protesters and flag-waving children filling the streets outside and a small group of dissident politicians staging a walkout inside, Bush told a joint session of the Philippine Congress that the United States would help modernize the Philippine military in its battle against the Abu Sayyaf separatist group. The group is thought to be affiliated with al-Qaida.
"Every nation in Asia and across the world now faces a choice," Bush said. "Nations that try to ignore terror and hope it will only strike others are deluding themselves, undermining our common defense and inviting a future of catastrophic violence."
Security was extraordinarily tight. Jet fighters accompanied Air Force One as it arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and Bush's arrival at the Philippine Congress was delayed for an hour so police could move thousands of protesters away from his motorcade's route. Protesters burned Bush in effigy and waved signs calling him a terrorist.
Inside the congressional chamber, a handful of lawmakers walked out of Bush's speech to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq and other U.S. policies. Others wore lapel pins with blue ribbons and peace doves to symbolize their opposition. There was no indication that Bush was aware of the walkout.
Bush's visit lasted only eight hours before he departed for Thailand to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, where, gathering with Asian leaders, he said the United States has no intention of invading North Korea yet is not interested in signing a non-aggression treaty with Pyongyang.
On Saturday, North Korea reiterated it is not interested in new international talks about its nuclear program and other controversies unless the United States discusses a nonaggression treaty.
However, "We have no intention of invading North Korea," Bush said during a meeting with Thailand's prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. "We expect North Korea to get rid of her nuclear weapons ambitions."
In Thailand, Asian foreign ministers agreed to a U.S. proposal that would impose new limits on the production, export and brokering of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft rockets. Such weapons, formally known as Man-Portable Air Defense System or MANPADS, were used by al-Qaida-linked terrorists in an attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in Mombasa, Kenya, and there were reports of similar attempts planned during the summit in the Thai capital.
The United States is pressing the case in Bangkok that security is essential for economic development. The United States announced Saturday it would give $5.4 million in seed money to build a regional counterterrorism facility at the Asia Development Bank. The money would help fund projects in such areas as port security.
A senior U.S. official said the initiatives were designed to address the link between trade and security, highlighting the devastating economic impact terrorist attacks can have by discouraging both business and tourist travel.
Some countries particularly China argued Saturday that APEC should remain focused solely on trade and economics, the purpose for which it was founded.
In Manila, Bush also found dissenters. Rep. Liza Maza, one of the lawmakers who walked out, wore a hand-painted shawl depicting a peace dove crushing a U.S. missile next to the words, "No to U.S. war." In an interview, Maza said she objects to Bush's plans to help the Philippine military combat Islamic terrorists based in the southern part of the island nation.
"We don't want to be a launching pad for this war that is being led by President Bush," she said. "I don't think we have any problem that we cannot contain ourselves."
But most lawmakers, and many Filipinos, seemed to welcome Bush's visit. Thousands of flag-waving schoolchildren lined the streets as Bush drove through the congested city. Sen. Heherson Alvarez said he viewed Bush's stopover here as a badly needed vote of confidence for the Philippines, which has had to deal with communist insurgents and military unrest as well as Islamic extremists.
"The whole country is very afraid, very fragile. It drags down the whole economy," Alvarez said. "We're almost on the brink of looking like some of those Latin American republics 25 or 30 years ago."
Bush's visit was also intended to shore up President Gloria Arroyo, a staunch ally in the war on terrorism who is up for re-election next year. Bush said the United States and the Philippines are locked together against a common enemy.Comment on this story
"Americans witnessed the murder of thousands on a single day. Filipinos have known bombings and kidnapping and brutal murders," Bush said. "These killers torture and behead their victims while acting or claiming to act in the name of God. But murder has no home in any religious faith, and these terrorists must find no home in the Philippines."
Officials traveling with Bush declined to put a price tag on his pledge to help beef up the Philippines military. Last year, the United States provided about $114 million in military aid to the Philippines.
"We don't have a final number yet. We're still talking numbers with the Filipinos," said a senior administration official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.
Contributing: Associated Press