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Bush vows to wage war even if public tires

By John King

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, California (CNN) -- In an interview with Asian editors, President Bush predicted "people are going to get tired of the war on terrorism," but he promised to press on even if public support wavers "because I think it's the right thing to do. That's what I am supposed to do."

The interview was conducted Tuesday at the White House. A transcript was released Wednesday as Bush headed to Shanghai for the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

On his way to Shanghai, Bush stopped in northern California for a speech, and used his most explicit language yet in making clear that one goal of the U.S. strikes is to weaken the Taliban so internal opposition forces could knock the Afghan regime from power,

He also said he would use his discussions at the APEC meeting to strengthen the international coalition to fight terrorism.

In the interview Tuesday, Bush said he viewed the trip as critical to advancing the war on terrorism and discussions about how to give the global economy a boost.

And he has tough words for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, criticizing him as "secretive" and "suspicious" and voicing disappointment he had not taken advantage of opportunities to meet with South Korea's president and separately with a U.S. delegation.

Speaking to a South Korean journalist, Bush said: "He won't meet with you; he won't meet with us -- which kind of leads me to believe that perhaps he doesn't want to meet."

Envisioning a longer conflict

Near the end of the discussion, the president said: "You mark my words, people are going to tire of the war on terrorism. And, by the way, it may take more than two years. There's a variety of theaters. ... You said one or two years. I envision something taking longer than that.

"Now maybe the Afghan theater will be shorter than that ... . Who knows? But we're patient. But some people are going to start to say: 'We're tired, but President Bush keeps going on.' And when that happens, I want you to know, I will be doing it because I think it is the right thing to do. That's what I'm supposed to do."

Bush conceded that he is leaving the United States "at a very difficult time" because of the terror attacks, but said it is important to go to discuss the war on terror, as well as economic issues.

"It's also important for my nation to see that I leave because ... international affairs are still a very important part of making the world safe," he said.

The president said he is looking forward to meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

"I think the first priority is, of course, for Jiang Zemin to look me in the eye, take the measure of the American president," he said. "We've only spoken over the phone. We haven't had a chance to meet. So it's to establish a personal relationship."

The second priority, he said, is to foster good trade relations. Bush also reaffirmed his support for the United States' one-China policy -- eventual reunification of China and Taiwan. "I ... expect there to be a peaceful reconciliation of the differences" between the two, he said.


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