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China says it will be instrument of world peace, prosperity

President Hu offers assurances at Asian forum

BUSAN, South Korea -- President Hu Jintao of China took center stage at a Pacific Rim forum yesterday, offering assurances there is nothing to fear from his fast-developing country and emphasizing that China has great potential to contribute to world peace.

''Facts have proved that China's development will not stand in the way of anyone, nor will it pose any threat to anyone," Hu said in a speech to a gathering of chief executives. ''Instead, it will only do good to peace, stability, and prosperity in the world."

Hu came to this bustling port city for the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, where he, President Bush, and 19 other leaders plan to address threats such as terrorism, stalled global trade talks, and the potential for a flu pandemic that specialists say could kill millions of people.

The focus of APEC's weeklong meetings shifted to the business summit, an annual event on the sidelines of the leaders' gathering, as government delegates took a break from official meetings a day after trade and foreign ministers signed off on a statement to be handed to leaders.

Hu said China has emerged as a major engine of world growth, touting the strides it has made in recent years. He cited a number of statistics, such as his country's 9.4 percent economic growth last year and the doubling of its foreign trade from just three years ago.

Along with China's astonishing economic growth -- averaging about 9 percent over the past decade -- have come concerns that major increases in military spending mean the world's most populous country may be seeking a role as the strongest power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Hu discounted such fears, saying that China remains a ''developing country."

''The Chinese nation always loves peace," he said. ''China will firmly adhere to the road of peaceful development."

The business meeting, which heard speeches from several national leaders, came a day after ministers from the 21-member group reached agreement on supporting the World Trade Organization's current round of trade talks and other topics, including ways to tackle the newest regional threat: bird flu.

The need to respond to bird flu gained urgency as leaders began arriving for the summit, when China confirmed its first human cases of the virus, including at least one death.

''Nontraditional security issues, such as terrorism, financial risks, and natural disasters, are posing a threat to the very existence and development of mankind," Hu said in his speech. He did not mention avian flu.

Bush is expected to make the risk of bird flu's sparking a global human flu pandemic one of the main issues of the leaders' summit today and tomorrow, along with terrorism.

The leaders are also expected to issue a statement supporting the global trade talks.

Hopes of advancing the World Trade Organization's trade liberalization goals at a ministerial meeting next month in Hong Kong have soured because of disputes over agriculture and other issues, which recent talks in Europe have failed to resolve.

Businesses are increasingly worried about the impact on their work forces and bottom line of the spread of bird flu, which has killed millions of chickens and other fowl as well as at least 64 people in Asia.

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