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Former President Bush plans to travel to China next month to speak to a conference on food production as part of a broader Asian tour.

His visit will coincide with the U.N. conference on women in China, but he has no plans to take part in conference activities, spokesman Jim McGrath said Tues-day.Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole is among those who have said it would be a mistake for first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to attend the conference as long as China detains Harry Wu, a dissident and naturalized American citizen who has been in custody since June.

Hillary Clinton has not said whether she will attend.

McGrath defended Bush's plans to visit China, noting that the former president is "a private citizen going to attend a private-sector conference in Beijing. She is the sitting first lady of the United States. There is a big difference."

He said Bush plans no meetings with Chinese officials while in Beijing and wants to stay out of the debate on whether Hillary Clinton should go to Beijing.

The main purpose of Bush's Asia trip is to visit Vietnam, where he will attend a conference sponsored by Citibank.