Bush Has Yen For Japan Help

Caption U.S. President George W. Bush, center, salutes to an unidentified protocol officer as first lady Laura, 2nd from right, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker look on after the President and the first lady arrived at Haneda airport in Tokyo Friday, Oct. 17, 2003. The President will have dinner with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in his overnight visit to Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi) AP

President Bush, buoyed by a long-sought U.N. victory on Iraq, brought praise for Japan's contribution to rebuilding the war-torn country.

Mr. Bush's Tokyo stop, the first on a six-day whirlwind tour of Asia and Australia fashioned around an international economic conference in Thailand, opened an offensive to get other nations in the region more involved in Iraq as well.

CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports the Tokyo stop is a diplomatic hit-and-run: A quick meeting and dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi — whom Mr. Bush regards as a good friend among world leaders.

The president is thankful for the $1.5 billion Japan says it will donate to Iraqi reconstruction, but Mr. Bush will also urge Japan to stop manipulating its currency to gain a trade advantage over the United States.

U.S. manufacturers and politicians say efforts by Japan and China to keep their own currencies low against the dollar are costing U.S. jobs by making American exports more expensive.

Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush arrived Friday, descending the steps of the presidential aircraft in bright sunshine. U.S. ambassador Howard Baker greeted them.

Later, Mr. Bush was meeting with Koizumi in the Akasaka Palace, built in the early 1990s as the residence for Japan's crown prince and now the official state guest house. What was billed as a "social dinner" was to follow in an annex overlooking a Japanese-style garden and small, carp-stocked pond.

A few dozen protesters demonstrated against Mr. Bush's visit in front of the U.S. Embassy, a little over a block from where the Bushes were staying. The protesters carried anti-nuclear messages, but also condemned the U.S.-led war in Iraq and Japan's plans to help with the aftermath.

A senior Bush administration official who traveled here with the president aboard Air Force One said that, in addition to the $1.5 billion first-installment toward rebuilding Iraq announced by Tokyo, Japan was weighing whether to send forces to Iraq, largely to serve in noncombatant roles.

Japan is reportedly considering sending the forces to Basra and Nasiriya, two relatively stable cities in southern Iraq. But the timing of the deployment remains a matter of debate, in part because of Japan's Nov. 9 national elections. Military involvement of any kind is controversial in Japan, where the electorate contains a strong pacifist streak.

Mr. Bush flew to Japan shortly after the U.N. Security Council handed his administration a big diplomatic victory by authorizing a resolution aimed at attracting more international money and troops to help stabilize Iraq.

The president praised the U.N. action, both briefly in a speech in San Bernardino, Calif., in which he shared the platform with California Gov-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, and in a written statement.

"This resolution will help marshal even more international support for development of a new, democratic Iraq," Mr. Bush said in the statement.

But the senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration was under no illusions this would happen quickly. France and Germany — whose last-minute support for the resolution boosted its prospects — have said they do not foresee sending troops or money.

The official said Mr. Bush was personally pressing world leaders, through calls, letters and in-person pleas, to make contributions.

"We're doing quite a lot of pressing of everybody," said the official. "Obviously these meetings (in Asia) allow him to make the case."

White House national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, in a briefing for reporters in Washington earlier in the week, characterized the stop in Japan as "a layover" en route to other Asian destinations.

But the senior administration official who briefed reporters on Air Force One, disputed such a characterization, saying that trips to Japan always involved serious work.

Japan's pledge of $1.5 billion in reconstruction aid next year could be followed by a total of up to $5 billion over the next four years, according to U.S. and Japanese officials.

While the largest contribution offered thus far, that amount still falls far short of the $13 billion Tokyo spent in the 1991 Gulf War and the $20.3 billion Mr. Bush has asked Congress to chip in.

Japan was among the first to support the war in Iraq, but had waffled on sending money or troops after a decade-long economic downturn.

Tokyo is expected to announce details of its aid package at an international donors conference to be held next week in Madrid, Spain.

The official said the Japan stop gave the president a chance to relax at the end of an 11-hour Pacific crossing before heading on Saturday for the Philippines. He will spend just eight hours there before flying on to Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Jarrett Murphy

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