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Bush to Visit Asia in February

Officials in Seoul and Tokyo say President Bush is planning an Asian trip next month, with stops in South Korea, Japan and possibly China. A spokesman for South Korea's presidential Blue House says Mr. Bush will make his first visit to Korea as president in the second half of February. The official says Mr. Bush will meet with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung, to try to work out a joint strategy to restart reconciliation talks with North Korea.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss ways to strengthen the U.S. - South Korean alliance.

President Kim made a trip to Washington very early in Mr. Bush's term, when Mr. Bush appeared unenthusiastic about the South Korean policy of engagement with rival North Korea.

Pyongyang stalled reconciliation efforts last year, in part as a response to the Bush administration's review of U.S. policies toward the North.

Japanese officials say Mr. Bush also will stop in Tokyo for talks with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. U.S. officials have been urging Japan to take stronger steps to improve its flagging economy, particularly the troubled banking sector.

Reports from Tokyo and Seoul say Mr. Bush will visit China during his Asian trip. Chinese Foreign Ministry officials could not be reached for comment and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing could not confirm the reports.

Mr. Bush had planned extensive visits in Asia last October, but drastically shortened that trip because he was dealing with the aftermath of September's terrorist attacks in the United States and the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he went only to Shanghai for a regional summit meeting.