The political rancor in Washington over the Iraq war continued to shadow the Asian trip of United States President George W. Bush on Sunday, as he was holding his last press conference in Beijing.
Bush's two-day China stop - his third as president to the communist giant - was the centrepiece of a week-long Asia tour, but an acrid debate at home about the war in Iraq has followed him.
Congressman John Murtha, a Democrat who is a decorated Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, last week urged the withdrawal of all US troops within six months because the U.S. cannot accomplish anything further militarily.
His statement touched off a bitter debate between Republicans and Democrats.
President Bush said that while Murtha's call for an immediate withdrawal was done in thoughtful way, but Bush said he disagreed with his position.
While overseas, the White House has not let a day go by without a no-holds-barred verbal counterattack against Democratic critics of the president's war policies.
But Bush appeared determined Sunday to scale back the rhetoric.
Appearing before reporters at his hotel before he attended a lavish dinner with his Chinese hosts, Bush rejected the notion that it is unpatriotic to disagree with him.
President Bush on Sunday also pushed for the Chinese leadership to expand religious, political and social freedoms and won renewed promises - but no concrete actions - from President Hu Jintao to open China's huge markets to U.S. farmers and businesses.
No questions from the press were permitted during the joint appearance by Bush and Hu, so the US president's give-and-take with reporters on his own was scheduled later in part to make a point about press freedom.
Bush said pressing for religious freedom was a good way to ensure that other freedoms follow.
He said: "They go hand in hand. A society which recognises religious freedoms a society which will recognise political freedom as well. President Hu is a thoughtful fellow, and he listened to what I had to say."
The president's visit had also more relaxed moments.
After the meetings with Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao, Bush went for a vigorous hour-long mountain bike ride with six young men and women vying for spots on China's Olympic mountain biking team.
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