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Join war on terror, Asia urged

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SINGAPORE — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld urged Asian nations Saturday to join the United States in taking the offensive against international terrorists, and he offered assurances that planned reductions in U.S. troop levels in Asia are not a sign of waning U.S. interest.

In a speech to an Asian security conference, dubbed the Shangri-La Dialogue, Rumsfeld described the global war on terrorism as a battle against ideological extremism, and he said it had just begun.

"Because it cannot be appeased, it must be confronted on many fronts by all civil societies," he said.

The remark echoed comments he made Friday that any government hoping to "make a separate peace" with terrorists would be mistaken, just as were Europeans who had hoped to appease Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

In his speech Saturday to an audience that included defense ministers, military officers, lawmakers and private security experts from about 20 countries, Rumsfeld called the U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq examples of progress in the global war on terrorism. He spoke only briefly about Iraq, saying success there would be "a victory for the security of the civilized world."

The Iraq issue arose during a question-and-answer session with Rumsfeld's audience, and he asserted that there is no acceptable alternative to continuing on the current path to a democratic Iraq.

He cited five unacceptable alternatives: civil war, anarchy, ethnic cleansing, a splintering of the nation into ethnic enclaves and the rise of a "junior version" of the deposed Saddam Hussein.

"As soon as we can, we want to pass off the security responsibilities to the Iraqis," but not before they are ready, he added.

Speaking of the broader U.S.-led war against terrorism, Rumsfeld said in his prepared remarks: "Despite considerable progress, the reality is that today we remain closer to the beginning of this struggle than to its end."

He cautioned that despite some successes in capturing al-Qaida figures in Asia and foiling some plots, the terrorists will strike again.

"Let there be no doubt, there is more to come."

Rumsfeld mentioned no specifics on U.S. plans to reduce troop levels in South Korea. "Though the way we organize may evolve and change, the United States is a Pacific nation, and we will most certainly maintain our security presence with modernized deterrent capabilities here in this region," he said.

Before delivering his speech, Rumsfeld met with his Australian counterpart, Robert Hill, and told reporters afterward that Washington appreciates Australia's support in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his remarks Friday, Rumsfeld noted that some governments, which he didn't identify, see less of a threat in terrorism than the Bush administration does, and he compared the split in views to the early days of Hitler's rule in Germany.

in the 1930s. That is when, he said, some European nations argued that Hitler's military threats were empty rhetoric.

"Pretty soon he's got most of Europe, and the people who thought otherwise were wrong," Rumsfeld said. "There were people who thought he could be appeased; there were people who thought they could accommodate; there were people who thought they could make a separate deal. And it turned out they couldn't."

Similarly, some of today's leaders believe terrorist groups can be accommodated, he said.

"Countries that think they can make a separate peace with terrorists or appease terrorists or accommodate to them or make arrangements, I think, probably will find they are making a mistake," he said during an interview with reporters from Asian news organizations.

Rumsfeld had been asked his thoughts on the perception that the Bush administration was making life difficult for Asian leaders who have gone against popular opinion in their countries to support the United States in the Iraq conflict and the global war on terror.

"We're not causing difficulties for anyone," Rumsfeld responded and added that each country is free to decide for itself whether it will join the U.S. campaigns. "We put pressure on no country," he said, but then made the remarks about appeasement.

Later Saturday Rumsfeld was flying to Bangladesh to discuss that South Asian country's possible interest in peacekeeping in Iraq. Thousands of anti-U.S. protesters marched through downtown Dkaha, the Bangladesh capital, on Friday, denouncing the American defense secretary.

On Friday morning, Rumsfeld went aboard the USS Essex, a helicopter carrier in port at Singapore. He told sailors and Marines on the flight deck that the United States would have stopped the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks if American intelligence had collected better inside information on the terrorists.

Without directly assigning blame to the CIA, whose director, George Tenet, resigned Thursday and will leave in July, Rumsfeld posed the question, "Is it a terrible failure that we did not" have sufficiently good intelligence to stop the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil?

His answer was that it simply is not possible to prevent every conceivable attack, and that is why the United States has taken a more aggressive pre-emptive approach to disrupting terrorists.

"We have to be realistic and expect that there will be additional successful attacks," he said during a question-and-answer session with several hundred sailors and Marines, who stood in a sweltering sun and posed questions about pay raises, the news media, Osama bin Laden and other topics.

Later Rumsfeld met privately at his hotel with his South Korean counterpart, Gen. Cho Young Kil. In a joint written statement issued afterward, they said that South Korea had reiterated its intention to send 3,000 troops to Iraq soon and that progress is being made on modernizing the U.S.-South Korean defense alliance.

On the Net: Shangri-La Dialogue: www.iiss.org/shangri-la.php

Defense Department: www.defenselink.mil