U.S. President George W. Bush is embarking on his first foreign visit today (16 February) since assuming the presidency on 20 January. He will have discussions with Mexican President Vincente Fox on such issues as trade, illegal immigration, drugs, and energy. On the eve of the visit, Bush addressed a group of State Department personnel and outlined his broad foreign policy goals around the globe. Our correspondent, Frank T. Csongos, reports from Washington.
Washington, 16 February 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush says he will seek to use America's influence around the globe to further the cause of democracy and peace.
Bush outlined his broad foreign policy aims Thursday (15 February) in a speech before U.S. State Department personnel. His comments came on the eve of his first foreign trip as president. He is going to Mexico on Friday (16 February) for wide-ranging talks with Mexican President Vincente Fox.
"Our goal is to turn this time of American influence into generations of democratic peace."
Bush said this will require America to remain engaged with the world and to project its strength with purpose and humility.
"America will set its own priorities so that they are not set by our adversaries."
The president said the United States must work closely with its friends and allies in Europe and Asia to further democratic goals. He added:
"We must engage Russia and China with patience, principle and consistency."
While Bush did not elaborate, he was apparently referring to his plans to develop and deploy a national missile shield. Both Russia and China oppose the plan, saying it could trigger a new arms race.
The new U.S. administration says neither Russia nor China has anything to worry about. It says the plan seeks to protect the U.S. from attacks by rogue nations such as Iraq and North Korea.
In the past, Bush has singled out China as an important priority for the United States. China, which has nuclear arms and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is the world's most populous nation and a key trading partner for the U.S.
Russia also remains a priority, U.S. administration officials say, partly because it is second only to America in its nuclear weapons arsenal and because of its struggle for democracy and a free market system.
U.S. officials say that while Europe and Asia remain cornerstones of American foreign policy, the Western Hemisphere presents important opportunities and challenges. Bush underlined that message in his speech on Thursday.
"We must work with our neighbors to build a Western Hemisphere of freedom and prosperity."
Bush said America's destiny cannot be separated from the future of its neighbors in Canada and Latin America. He said he will carry this message with him when he talks with Mexican President Fox and pledged that the door is open to a closer partnership between the two neighboring countries.
In a personal touch between two former governors who have met several times and developed a special bond, Fox is to introduce Bush to his Spanish-born mother Mercedes Quesada.
Mexico has long been seen by some as America's poor relation to the south, a source of illegal drugs and illegal immigrants who cross the border seeking work in the United States. There are an estimated 3 million Mexican living in the United States illegally.