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Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2002

February 19, 2002

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— Sketching a vision of peace and prosperity for the Asian-Pacific region, President Bush today urged a stronger, tighter alliance with Japan to ensure a new "Pacific Century."

Bush, addressing the Japanese parliament on the third day of a weeklong tour of Asia, praised Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his nation for their help fighting the worldwide war on terrorism and asked for their continued support.

Bush never mentioned North Korea by name, nor his declaration that North Korea, Iraq and Iran form an "axis of evil" that he says could threaten the world with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Nonetheless, he talked of dangers in the region.

"We seek a peaceful region, where proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction does not threaten humanity," he said. "We seek a region in which demilitarized zones and missile batteries no longer separate people with common heritage and a common future."

Looking head to his next stop, South Korea, the president said, "Our responsibilities are clear."

"We will deter aggression against the Republic of Korea. Together, Japan and the United States will strengthen our ties of security."

Bush reminded the Japanese Diet of the importance of greater trade and the global responsibilities that he believes should flow from it.

"We are the world's two largest economies, and the two most generous contributors of economic aid and humanitarian aid," he said, pointing to Japan's longstanding, leading role in the United Nations and the World Bank, among other international institutions.

Yet, the president said, "money alone" will not solve the worldwide problems of poverty, illiteracy and disease.

"Progress will require long-term commitment, and we must provide it," he said.

The success of the region is "essential to the entire world," Bush said, "and I am convinced the 21st century will be the Pacific Century."

"Japan and America share a vision for the future of the Asia-Pacific region as a fellowship of free Pacific nations."

Facing Korean protests

Late today, Bush was headed to South Korea, where the "axis of evil" declaration in his State of the Union address three weeks ago has stirred up considerable angst that war is again a front-burner prospect on the divided peninsula.

His visit already has sparked demonstrations in Seoul, with nearly three dozen students seizing an office of the American Chamber of Commerce on Monday to protest the president's visit.

And in North Korea, the state-run radio has continued to taunt Bush, calling him a "politician who is ignorant and poor in theoretical ability."

Wednesday afternoon, the president plans to visit the demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea and peer across the border into a critical nexus of his "evil axis."

"On one side of a parallel we've got people starving to death because a nation chooses to build weapons of mass destruction. And on the other side, there's freedom," Bush said during a joint news conference with Koizumi on Monday.

"It's important for those of us who love freedom to work with nations to convince them to choose freedom."

Bush said he had told the prime minister in their private conversations that "all options were on the table" in the next phase of the war against terrorism. And Koizumi said he had interpreted the president's evil-axis words as a reflection of Bush's "firm resolve."

Agreeing that a "drawn out and tough" fight lies ahead, Koizumi pledged Japan's continued support.

"President Bush, I believe, has been very calm and cautious vis-a-vis Iraq, Iran and North Korea," the prime minister said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and other officials traveling with the president have also urged calm, noting that Bush has not decided how to proceed since the Taliban regime has been routed in Afghanistan.

"I can assure you that there was no timetable discussed," said a senior administration official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.

Bush also has reiterated his desire to resume the negotiations with North Korea that were cut off at the beginning of his administration. But he has also demanded that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, pull back his troops from the border with South Korea.

Defense measures

In China, where he is to visit at the end of the week, Bush said he would emphasize trade and human rights and thank its leaders for their cooperation in fighting terrorism.

And he said he will continue to press his case for the development of a missile defense shield to protect the United States and its allies from North Korea and other nations that he has branded as "rogue states."

"America and Japan have joined to oppose danger and aggression," he told the Diet. "We have also joined to bring aid and hope to those who struggle throughout the developing world."

In his news conference Monday and his speech today, Bush expressed all-out support for Koizumi and his drive for new banking regulations and other reforms designed to revive Japan's recession-ravaged economy.

"I'm confident in this man's leadership ability. I'm confident in his strategy. And I'm confident in his desire to implement that strategy," Bush told reporters.

The president, however, caused a brief dip in the value of the Japanese yen Monday when he mistakenly said the two leaders had discussed "devaluation," which the White House quickly corrected to "deflation" in an unusual footnote to the official transcript of the news conference.

"He did not make any specific suggestions on exchange rates, on devaluation," the senior administration official said, seeking to set the record straight. "He's not here to lecture the Japanese. He's here to encourage them."

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