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Sunday, November 13, 2005 Top Worldwide Top WorldwideBush, in Japan, Will Seek to Bridge Tokyo-Beijing Divisions

Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- When U.S. President George W. Bush arrives in Japan tomorrow, he's likely to find something unusual: a friendly reception from a foreign government.

On Bush's last international trip, to a hemispheric summit in Argentina earlier this month, he was confronted by strong opposition to his free-trade agenda. And when Bush leaves Japan on Nov. 16 to join a Pacific Rim economic summit in South Korea, he'll likely find skepticism among some leaders over his war against terrorism and more dissent over free trade.

In Tokyo, Bush will be greeted by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who stood by the U.S. president during street protests over the Iraq war and has steered his country into what Bush has called a ``healthy relationship'' with the U.S.

``The Japanese firmly believe that a good relationship with the United States is the cornerstone of their existence in the world,'' said Edward Lincoln, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington and former economic adviser to Walter Mondale, the U.S. ambassador to Japan from 1993-1996. ``There just doesn't seem to be strong anti-U.S. behavior in Japan so Bush is not going to face any problems on that leg of the trip.''

Bush arrives in Asia as ties between Japan and China -- the region's two largest economies -- have deteriorated.

``You have the two biggest powers in Asia, with leaders not talking to each other, people demonstrating in the streets, smashing the windows of Toyota dealers, drilling in the East China Sea with military vessels and aircraft circling on both sides,'' said Jeffrey Bader, senior fellow and director of the China Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Trade Barriers

Bush wants both countries to focus on economic cooperation. Bush will use a speech in Kyoto tomorrow to urge the region to open up to greater democratic reforms, expand trade and reduce barriers to economic growth, messages he's likely to repeat in Beijing when he meets President Hu Jintao on Nov. 20.

China has largely replaced Japan as the focus of attention for those concerned about the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs to foreign competitors. Two decades ago, a wave of protectionist sentiment washed through Congress seeking to curb what was then a fast-growing Japanese economy.

China's economy, about a third the size of Japan's, now is growing three times faster than Japan's. The U.S. and Japan, the world's two largest economies, want China to play by rules governing the global economy.

Rising Chinese Power

Bush is wading into the region at a time when Japan has been ``increasingly concerned'' about rising Chinese power, said Joseph Nye, professor of international relations at Harvard University's Kennedy School of School of Government in Boston and a former assistant secretary of defense.

``It is not in our interest to see Japan and China at cross purposes,'' Nye said. ``Bush has got to smooth that over.''

The U.S. president is aware of the problem, saying last week he would encourage Koizumi to talk to leaders in China and South Korea. Koizumi will meet with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun when Asian leaders gather in Busan, South Korea, for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

``Look, I understand that there is great tension as a result of some events that took place in the past,'' Bush said. ``The United States and Japan at one time were sworn enemies. And now here we are sitting down as friends.

``It's possible to forget the past,'' said Bush, 59, whose father, former President George H.W. Bush, was shot down over the Pacific as a fighter pilot during World War II. ``It's difficult, but it is possible.''

War Wounds

Japan's treatment of Chinese during the war has resurfaced as an issue now that Japan is seeing a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The Japanese Army massacred 320,000 Chinese civilians in Nanking in 1937, and Japan hasn't fully apologized for its prisoner of war camps, forced labor factories, and system of ``comfort women'' for Japanese soldiers.

Koizumi, 63, sparked protests in China this year after a visit to Japan's Yasukuni shrine honoring servicemen who died in the war -- including convicted war criminals.

``If our message going in there is `C'mon guys, get over history,' we're going to be viewed as part of the problem,'' said Derek Mitchell, senior fellow and director of Asia studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. ``There are some deep issues there and they require the Japanese as well to step up and take account for their past and some of the sensitivities in the region.''


In his talks with Koizumi, Bush will stress his friendship with the Japanese leader and strong ties between their two nations.

``U.S. relations with Japan have strengthened tremendously over the last few years,'' said Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Kristin Forbes, a member of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers from 2003 until June this year. ``There's been very strong collaboration in trying to work together on global economic issues.''

Koizumi's cooperation with Bush on foreign policy prompted protests at home when he decided last December to keep about 600 non-combat troops in Iraq to help rebuild the southern city of Samawah after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Japan's constitution prevents its forces from fighting in a war unless in self-defense. Koizumi hasn't said whether he'll extend the troops' stay in Iraq again when the current deployment expires Dec. 14.

``Japan makes the decisions that the government thinks is necessary,'' Bush told a Japanese television reporter who asked about the extension last week.

Beef Shipments

One area of contention between the two countries -- shipments of U.S. beef -- appears to be close to resolution. Imports to Japan present a ``very low risk'' of causing human infection with a variant of mad-cow disease provided specific conditions are met, a Japanese government committee said last month, signaling the country is moving closer to lifting a 22- month ban on the meat.

``Japan is also taking steps to reopen its market to American beef, and trade between our two nations will continue to create jobs in both countries,'' National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said Nov. 10.

Under Koizumi, the Japanese government took politically risky moves to create conditions so that banks can recapitalize, dispose of bad loans and improve lending procedures.

Japan's economy grew faster than expected in the third quarter as companies and consumers increased spending, fueling the longest expansion in eight years. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose to a 4 1/2-year high.

``The results show in the numbers,'' Forbes said. ``After 10 years being in and out of recessions, rarely putting together two quarters of positive GDP growth, growth in Japan has definitely improved.''

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