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Terrorism Leads Agenda of Bush-Koizumi Talks - 2002-02-18

President Bush is in Japan at the start of a six-day trip to Asia. Mr. Bush meets with the Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi Monday to promote the fight against terrorism and discuss economic reforms and increasing trade.

The president and Mrs. Bush began the day with a demonstration of horseback archery at Tokyo's historic Meiji Shrine. The archery, known as "yabusame" is significant because Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi gave President Bush a "yabusame" bow and arrow at their last meeting in Shanghai last year as a symbol of Japan's resolve to strike a blow against terror.

The fight against international terrorism tops the agenda of a one-on-one meeting between the leaders before a working lunch and a joint news conference at the Prime Minister's official residence. The president will thank Japan for its help in shutting-down sources of terrorist financing as well as helping to pay the costs of reconstruction in Afghanistan.

The two men are also expected to discuss Japan's economic reforms, with Mr. Bush urging the Prime Minister to move faster to restructure a banking sector plagued by corporate debt and non-performing loans. Unemployment is on the rise in the world's second largest economy as incomes and consumer confidence decline along with the prime minister's popularity.

At their first meeting in the United States last June, the Japanese leader outlined plans to "vigorously and comprehensively" reform his country's economy by capping government spending and restructuring a banking sector troubled by corporate debt and non-performing loans.

Since then, the Japanese economy has fallen farther, in part because of a U.S. recession made worse by terrorist attacks. White House officials say President Bush hopes to regain some of the momentum toward Japanese economic reform by backing the Prime Minister's approach without endorsing specific actions, which might be seen as interfering in the reform process.

The president will continue his call for international pressure on North Korea, which he says is a threat to world peace because it may help terrorists acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

The president's characterization of North Korea as part of an "axis of evil", along with Iran and Iraq, has raised concerns in Asia that the next phase of the war against terrorism could increase tensions on the Korean peninsula.

While Mr. Bush says he is not ruling-out military action against North Korea, White House officials make it clear they first want to try diplomatic efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, the administration is singling-out North Korea as a threat to world peace, it says it is still backing South Korean efforts at improving relations toward eventual reunification.