World Leaders Don Tunics in Hanoi, But Fail To Show Unity on N. Korea

December 2, 2006

By SEBASTIEN BERGER
The Daily Telegraph
November 20, 2006

 

Dmitri Astakhov / AFP / Getty

Presidents Bush, Hu, and Putin appear in public in traditional Vietnamese ao dai yesterday in Hanoi at the end of the Asian-Pacific leaders summit. A story is on page 5. America and Russia earlier signed a bilateral agreement that paves the way for Moscow to join the World Trade Organization after 12 years of tough negotiations.

 

 

 

Dmitri Astakhov / AFP / Getty

Presidents Bush, Hu, and Putin appear in public in traditional Vietnamese ao dai yesterday in Hanoi at the end of the Asian-Pacific leaders summit. A story is on page 5. America and Russia earlier signed a bilateral agreement that paves the way for Moscow to join the World Trade Organization after 12 years of tough negotiations.

 
 
 
 
 

HANOI, Vietnam — The leaders of most of the world’s major powers were united in discomfort yesterday as they posed in traditional silk tunics following a summit in Vietnam — but failed to show the same common purpose over North Korea.

A tight-lipped President Bush looked especially unimpressed with his pastel blue ao dai, a flowing garment that is nowadays worn almost exclusively by women.

Next to him stood a similarly grim-looking President Putin of Russia, although President Hu of China appeared more comfortable.

On a slender female form the ao dai, a clinging piece of clothing slit to above the hip, is simultaneously elegant and alluring, but when sported by middle-aged Caucasian men it is substantially less flattering.

The male version, cut slightly differently, has been largely abandoned by Vietnamese men, even on formal occasions. Mr. Bush took the first chance he had to remove his once the official photo call was finished, a ritual at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

The tradition began in Seattle in 1993, when President Clinton offered his guests bomber jackets, and they have gone on to don Indonesian batik, Philippine barong made of pineapple fibers, and Mexican ponchos, among others.

This year the leaders had a choice of five colors of ao dai, all of them embroidered with golden lotus flowers. In feudal times yellow was reserved for the king, but it was chosen only by the Thai prime minister and the Vietnamese president, while the sultan of Brunei, the sole monarch present, picked green.
The majority wore blue — traditionally the uniform of petty officials — while all three women leaders dressed in pink.

And despite their efforts to proclaim a united front over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the positions they took, while sheathed in diplomatic nuances, were almost as varied as the hues of their silks.

A joint declaration issued after the APEC meeting did not directly refer to the world’s most serious geopolitical crisis, and a proposed separate document on the issue failed to materialize.

Instead a short verbal statement was read out at a press conference.

The six-party talks, the rest of the world’s main negotiating forum with North Korea, are due to resume next month, after the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions following North Korea’s nuclear weapons test on October 9.

And while America and Japan have said repeatedly that a nuclear North Korea is “unacceptable,” the verbal statement only expressed “strong concern.”

It was later released by officials of South Korea, the country most threatened by the North, which is declining to join fully in the American-led Proliferation Security Initiative by inspecting North Korean ships at sea.

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