Vice President Bush, flying to this aircraft carrier outside the Persian Gulf to play up U.S. resolve to protect the free flow of its oil, sought to play down the domestic political controversy over his recent remarks on the dangers of falling oil prices.
Bush said he was aware that there was "some political heat" on him, but insisted again that he was right in warning of the adverse affects of the oil price collapse on the U.S. petroleum industry.
"I think this is administration policy. I think I'm correct. I know I'm correct. Some things you're sure of. This I'm absolutely sure of," the vice president said in reply to a question at a press conference aboard the Enterprise.
Bush also said he was "somewhat surprised" to find that everything he did or said was being viewed in terms of the 1988 presidential campaign.
As the Enterprise cruised 200 miles off the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway to the gulf, Bush renewed the United States' "solemn commitment" to keeping the strait open to international shipping despite a new round of Iranian attacks on oil tankers inside the gulf.
But Bush offered no additional U.S. military support to the Arab oil producers for the protection of western oil tankers, as well as their own, coming under missile attack from both Iran and Iraq, now in their sixth year of war.
Since Bush's arrival in the region Saturday, two more oil tankers -- one owned by Saudi Arabia -- have been hit by missiles believed to have been fired from Iranian helicopters, operating off an oil platform in the gulf.
About 20 tankers have been hit since the latest escalation in the Iran-Iraq war in early February. In all, about 200 neutral ships have been attacked since the war began in September 1980, according to Bahrain officials.
Yesterday, while Bush was visiting Bahrain, Information Minister Terik Almoayed appealed to the United States to help put a stop to the attacks.
At today's press conference, Bush indicated that he did not think the Reagan administration is prepared "right now" to escalate the U.S. military presence in the gulf beyond ensuring that Iran did not close the Strait of Hormuz, as it has occasionally threatened to do.
Bush said he thinks the level of U.S. military presence is "just about the way it ought to be here. If there were some real threat to a nonbelligerent state I think the United States would have the option of deciding what to do."