- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

TOKYO President Bush today urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to work quickly to enact serious economic reforms to restore the world's second-largest economy.
Mired in its third recession in a decade, Japan's recovery is crucial to the U.S. economy, which is beginning to show signs of moving out of a yearlong slump.
"I firmly believe the Japanese economy needs significant reforms and restructuring," Mr. Bush told reporters before arriving in Tokyo. "I believe my friend will be able to lead the economy out of its doldrums."
Kicking off his three-nation, weeklong Asia trip, Mr. Bush will meet today with the Japanese prime minister, the fifth such meeting between the two leaders since Mr. Bush became president last year.
While Mr. Bush has publicly praised Japan for its aid in the U.S.-led war against international terrorism the nation has dispatched warships to the Indian Ocean and offered help in rebuilding Afghanistan Bush aides say he privately will be blunt in urging immediate economic reforms.
"The message is very clear that the United States expects more aggressive economic restructuring," said Naoko Munakata, a former official in Japan's Ministry of Economy. "And it is blunt: Don't let your trouble spread across the region or the world; get it straight right now."
Mr. Koizumi, whose nationwide popularity has begun to flag as unemployment reached an all-time high and deflation prompted investors to dump the once-strong yen, has not yet enacted the broad reforms he proposed before winning office last year.
The prime minister promised to end "pork-barrel" spending and replace alliances of Japan's political and business elite with entrepreneurial free enterprise and open competition.
But Mr. Koizumi's tough talk has not been followed by action as conservatives demanded new government spending to stimulate Japan's economy.
Both leaders have battled entrenched lawmakers who oppose economic reform. Congress has rejected Mr. Bush's proposed stimulus package of tax cuts to spur the economy and some members are seeking to dramatically increase government spending.
Mr. Bush arrived after a 14-hour flight at Haneda airport aboard Air Force One last night in a light drizzle. He was greeted by Ambassador Howard Baker, with whom he had dinner at the U.S. Embassy.
About 100 protesters wearing helmets and face masks marched through central Tokyo to protest Mr. Bush's hard line on Iran, Iraq and North Korea, the countries he referred to as an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union speech last month.
"Stop Bush's war against Afghanistan and Iraq" read one banner. One demonstrator standing in the cold and wet wore a bib reading "Bush the Fascist."
Tight security prevented the demonstration, organized by a group of left-wing students, from approaching the U.S. Embassy.
Dozens of supporters lined the streets as Mr. Bush's motorcade made its way to the embassy. Some used megaphones to shout: "Welcome Bush."
Today, Mr. Bush was scheduled to visit the Meiji Shrine, whose 40-foot-high gates were carved from 1,700-year-old cypress trees.
At the 175-acre park at the shrine where more than 120,000 huge trees of 365 species grow Mr. Bush is to see a display of horseback archery known as "yabusame."
At the beginning of a U.S.-Japanese summit last October, Mr. Koizumi presented Mr. Bush with a bow and arrow used in yabusame, a feudal ceremony in which mounted archers clad in medieval costumes shoot at targets.
After a joint news conference later today, Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush will join the Koizumis at a local "yakitori" restaurant, where grilled chicken is served kebab-style on skewers.


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