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November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek TIME AsiaNow

APEC: Day One
The hosts spend big to put their best foot forward

It's the politics, stupid

September 8, 1999
Web posted at 3:00 p.m. Hong Kong time, 3:00 a.m. EDT

APEC '99 by the Numbers

Day Seven
Men - and One Woman - in Black
- Monday, Sept. 13, 1999

Day Six
On the Diplomatic Trail With Thailand's Chuan Leekpai
- Sunday, Sept. 12, 1999

Day Five
Days of Diplomacy
- Saturday, Sept. 11, 1999

Day Four
Even before he arrives, Bill Clinton makes his presence felt
- Friday, Sept. 10, 1999

Day Three
East Timor, Trade Talks, Clinton - and What The Leaders Will Wear
- Thursday, Sept. 9, 1999

Day Two: The Missing Agenda
Between East Timor and impending Sino-U.S. talks, the real business of APEC is being pushed aside
- Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1999

Day One
The hosts spend big to put their best foot forward. But will the Timor situation rain on Auckland's parade?
- Tuesday, Sept. 7, 1999

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Today's headlines from across the region

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Daily commentary from the editors of TIME Asia

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Each business evening with analysts around the region

Indigenous Maoris call New Zealand "Aotearoa" or "Land of the Long White Cloud." Appropriately, rain clouds hung over the city on Sept. 7, the first day of the annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. In the 88-year-old wedge-shaped Town Hall, senior officials from the 21 APEC economies hammered out final drafts of communiqués to be issued later in the week. Trade and foreign ministers gather Sept. 9, while leaders, including Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Bill Clinton of the U.S., get together Sept. 12 and 13.

It's always a security nightmare when the American president hits town. A tight security cordon is in place around the Town Hall and the media center on Aotea Square. Police are stationed around the perimeter, letting through only people wearing an official badge. Constables stop suspicious-looking vehicles for inspection, while officers check and seal manholes and patrol rooftops. Helicopters hover above the city. Large sections of the downtown area will be closed to traffic from Sept. 11. Police are reported to have taken suspected troublemakers into custody, while immigration officials are jailing anybody arriving in the country without proper papers, including asylum seekers.

New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service has something of a chip on its shoulder. In 1985, French agents planted bombs on the hull of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbor, sinking the vessel and killing a crewman. That incident still rankles. To prepare for APEC, the biggest international diplomatic conference ever held in the country, the government has given the SIS unprecedented powers to break into people's homes and tap phones.

The hosts are certainly out to impress their guests. Special tableware was commissioned for a VIP dinner Sept. 12, while five chefs were selected to prepare the food. Officials even carried out a nationwide search for just the right dessert to cap the leaders' luncheon Sept. 13 (the winner: Rush Munro ice cream from Hawke's Bay). Wines have been carefully picked. Outside the Town Hall, flowers have been arranged to spell out "APEC" and "City of Sails." More than $125,000 was spent to revamp the area around the museum where leaders will meet. The ducks on nearby waterways will be kept well-fed to keep them away from the guests.

All this expense - the official price tag for the meeting is $22 million - has many New Zealanders complaining. One local newspaper reported on its front page that the government's APEC Task Force spent $45,000 refurbishing hotel suites. It revealed that because Jiang would be billeted in the Royal Suite of the hotel that his delegation will be sharing with the Japanese, the authorities felt compelled to upgrade a lesser set of rooms and turn it into the Imperial Suite to accommodate Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo.

Relative to Clinton, the two Asian leaders will be slumming it. The American president's 1,100-strong delegation is taking up an entire five-star hotel. The management is reported to have installed a new kitchen in the president's suite so the travelling White House chefs can prepare presidential meals. Perhaps Clinton just wants to save on room service?  

It's the Politics, Stupid
The agenda for APEC is economics, but politics just won't go away. East Timor - not on the official agenda - is the talk of the town. Looking delighted to be thrust into the international limelight, New Zealand Prime Minister Jenny Shipley announced that APEC foreign ministers, as well as representatives from Europe and the U.N., will hold a special conference on East Timor in Auckland early September 9, although as of the 8th a place and time had not been set. "The whole of the APEC conference is on the line if it doesn't do anything about the worst human-rights tragedy going on just next door," says Maire Leadbeater, a local pro-East Timor independence activist. "What is really needed is action. Why aren't the New Zealand, Australian, and U.S. governments sending an intervention force? It's ridiculous that they are still sitting down to talk."

Many won't even go that far. Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, due to arrive the day before the hastily called meeting, has postponed his trip until the weekend. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will not attend as an entity, although ministers from the individual countries may accept the invitation. His boss, President B.J. Habibie, originally planned to arrive on Saturday, but Habibie has decided to skip the APEC meeting altogether apparently because of the East Timor crisis. (Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is also staying home.) The defense chief, Gen. Wiranto, will likely be too busy to come too - martial law was declared in East Timor yesterday.

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