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Obama, 'First Pacific President,' Turns to Asia

The president discussed trade, climate change and other issues during his eight-day trip to Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

President Obama is back from his first trip to Asia since becoming what he called "America's first Pacific president." The president, born in Hawaii, began his eight-day trip in Japan, then visited Singapore, China and South Korea. He met with leaders on issues including trade, the world economy and climate change.

In Singapore, he attended this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. And he chose Hawaii for the APEC meeting in two years.

The president spent a day in Japan. He met with the new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama. They talked about strengthening their nations' alliance. But the prime minister campaigned on a promise of a "more equal" relationship. For example, he wants to study a two thousand six agreement for an American Marine air station to move to another area of Okinawa.

In South Korea, President Obama and President Lee Myung-bak discussed a free trade agreement signed by their governments two years ago. President Obama said he hopes to get Congress to approve it next year.

China is the United States' second largest trading partner, after Canada. And China now holds more United States government debt than any other nation.

In Beijing, President Obama met with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. He also spoke to university students in Shanghai. Among other subjects, he talked about freedoms that Americans value.

BARACK OBAMA: "These freedoms of expression and worship, of access to information and political participation, we believe are universal rights. They should be available to all people."

China has the world's largest number of Internet users. But it also has what is often called the Great Firewall of China. The government restricts political content and blocks some social networking and news Web sites. President Obama said he is a strong supporter of open Internet access.

His meeting with students in Shanghai was broadcast locally. But China rejected an American request to show it live nationally.

There were no major developments, but there were promises of closer cooperation in talks between the two presidents. They made a joint statement to reporters, but took no questions.

Announcements included a series of measures to strengthen cooperation on clean energy. For example, the United States and China will jointly establish a clean energy research center. Scientists and engineers will work on technologies such as carbon capture and storage. That involves preventing industrial gases from escaping into the atmosphere where they can trap heat.

Also this week, environment ministers from about forty countries met in Copenhagen. They discussed issues related to a climate change conference that opens December seventh in the Danish capital.

APEC leaders said Sunday that it is unrealistic to expect a full and legally enforceable agreement to be negotiated by then. Instead, they called for a temporary political agreement while continuing to negotiate a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol. That treaty ends in two thousand twelve.

And that’s IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.