President George W. Bush speaks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting Saturday. The president addressed the world economic situation and North Korea’s nuclear program.AP PHOTO
LIMA, Peru — President George W. Bush scrambled allies Saturday to secure a North Korea disarmament deal before he leaves office, rushing hard for a late, legacy-shaping win.
As Bush engaged in some final diplomacy on the world stage amid a global economic slide, the White House announced that all nations engaged in the showdown with North Korea would meet in China in early December.
That nudge in the process alone was a boost to Bush, whose government is eager to lock in an international agreement on how to accurately verify North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
Meanwhile, grappling with a collapsing economy, Bush went before leaders at a major Asia-Pacific summit and tried to turn the crisis into an upbeat opportunity. He said the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression is a new chance for world unity and prosperity.
He backed up that lofty idea not with any specifics but broad principles, promoting the power of open markets and free trade. The message was reminiscent of how Bush responds to other disasters, such as vowing that a town flattened by a tornado will come back stronger.
“The policies of free enterprise that lifted up so many in this region can help chart a path to recovery for the whole world,” Bush told leaders at a 21-nation summit in Peru.
The White House said that U.S. partners were growing wary that all their work over North Korea — a long and torturous diplomatic process — might disappear without success soon. Starting Jan. 20, Democrat Barack Obama will decide how the U.S. engages North Korea.