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Bush Prepares for Asian Tour - 2003-10-16


President Bush leaves for Asia Thursday where he will talk about fighting terrorism and the need for more countries to contribute money and troops for Iraq. White House officials say the president is going to Asia and Australia to thank allies for their help in the fight against terrorism and expanding free trade.

The trip begins in Japan where Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Wednesday pledged $1.5 billion to help with Iraqi reconstruction. Mr. Bush applauded what he calls this bold step and commended the prime minister for working toward a larger aid package for a donors' conference in Spain later this month.

Aid for Iraq is at the top of the president's agenda as he continues to push for a new U.N. resolution he hopes will encourage more countries to contribute money and troops.

U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says the president is pleased with the support of Asian allies in the broader fight against terrorism and will not directly ask anyone to contribute more.

"We've gotten really excellent cooperation from many of the countries there, particularly Singapore, Thailand, Philippines is a very good warrior in the fight on terrorism. And as I've said, the Thais have actually been very instrumental in helping in Iraq and Afghanistan. So I'm sure he'll have those discussions," says Ms. Rice. "But this isn't an effort for the president to go out and make on his own behalf specific requests for troops or for money. He will, undoubtedly, remind people that we have a donors' conference coming up and that we would hope people would be generous."

While in Japan, the president will discuss regional efforts to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration refused North Korean demands to negotiate on the issue bilaterally and instead held-out for what are now six-party talks including the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.

President Bush is also expected to ask the Japanese leader to allow the value of the Japanese Yen to float more freely in currency markets. U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow has criticized Tokyo for trying to keep the yen artificially low by selling the currency for dollars.

Japanese authorities have sold more than 13 trillion yen this year to slow the advance of the currency, which this year is up almost 10 percent against the dollar. Monetary policy will also be on the table when Mr. Bush meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao. U.S. officials say China's pegging its currency to the dollar has fueled a record $103 billion trade deficit.

With both leaders, National Security Advisor Rice says the president will stress the importance of allowing currency markets to set exchange rates. "We believe, of course, in market-setting exchange rates. We continue to have, for the United States, a strong dollar policy," she says. "And the president said that he will raise this issue with both President Hu and Prime Minister Koizumi."

President Bush and President Hu will meet in Bangkok on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, or APEC. Mr. Bush will also meet separately with the presidents of South Korea and Mexico. He will address a joint session of Congress in the Philippines and make visits to Singapore and Indonesia, where he will speak about religious tolerance in the world's most populated Muslim nation.

The president then leaves for Australia where he will meet with Prime Minister John Howard and address Parliament before flying to Hawaii where he will tour the Pearl Harbor memorial and raise money for next year's presidential campaign.

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