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Bush, Koizumi search for common ground

The two leaders display their newfound friendship Saturday
The two leaders display their newfound friendship Saturday  


CAMP DAVID, Maryland (CNN) -- The leaders of the world's two largest economies met for the first time to search for common ground.

U.S. President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi emerged from a two-hour meeting at Camp David on Saturday, proclaiming "a very frank and open discussion."

The two leaders spoke to reporters and displayed their newfound friendship, tossing a baseball and exchanging compliments.

Bush announced he "strongly supports" Koizumi's reform agenda for Japan's ailing economy.

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"It's in our nation's best interest that the Japanese economy flourish and is strong and vibrant," Bush said.

As part of his plans to fix Japan's ailing economy, Koizumi wants Japan's banks to dispose of more than 11 trillion yen ($88.53 billion) in core bad loans within two years.

Koizumi backs Kyoto treaty

Japan's fragile economy already is nearing its fourth recession in a decade, even before the reforms begin, and Koizumi has said Japan might have to suffer an economic contraction if necessary to restore long-term growth.

When asked by reporters on his reaction to Bush's skepticism of the Kyoto climate treaty, speaking through a translator, Koizumi said, "I am not disappointed in the president's position. (He) is enthusiastic about environmental issues, and there is still time to discuss this issue."

Earlier, Koizumi told reporters he would urge the United States to adhere to the Kyoto climate treaty, which calls for reduced emissions of heat-trapping gases believed to be warming the Earth's atmosphere.

The accord was reached by countries around the world during a 1997 meeting in Kyoto, Japan, but Bush has rejected the pact.

Missile defense on agenda

Koizumi arrived at the presidential retreat via helicopter.

Despite bumping his head slightly as he departed the chopper, the Japanese leader's arrival proceeded as planned. Bush and former Sen. Howard Baker, the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, greeted Koizumi and his aides.

In a printed statement, released Saturday before their meeting, the leaders announced the launch of a new initiative, billed as the U.S.-Japan Economic Partnership for Growth, which establishes a framework for the two countries to work together on bilateral, regional and global economic and trade issues.

Japanese officials said they expected a frank exchange on Bush's missile defense plan, which Tokyo has not endorsed.

The two leaders did not address the missile defense issue to reporters after their meeting, but in a joint press release, Japan continued its long-standing position, "understanding" the president's call for a missile defense system, without fully endorsing the idea.

The statement said both leaders recognized the "need" to address the threat of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles and agreed that the governments should continue to work closely on missile defense.

New prime minister establishes ties

Koizumi announced in the press release that Japan would contribute $200 million for the new global fund to combat AIDS. The president, who already pledged the same amount, "welcomed" the announcement.

The statement did not include any mention of the increasing Japanese opposition to the U.S. military presence in Okinawa, which was aggravated this week by the allegation that a U.S. service member may have been involved in the rape of a local woman.

The joint statement did pledge, however, to keep working to reduce the "burden on the people of Okinawa" by consolidating U.S. bases on the Japanese island.

Political observers said the real goal of the Japanese prime minister's visit to the United States and Europe -- where he will travel after meeting with Bush -- was to establish a close personal relationship with other leaders.

After the meeting, Bush praised Koizumi's frankness and said he was a "courageous leader" who took the challenge "not to avoid but to lead."

The Japanese leader said he "instantly felt with this person (Bush) I would be able to give my frank views and ... to speak from the bottom of my heart."

It is the new Japanese leader's first overseas trip since taking office in April. After meeting with Bush, he is scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac before returning to Tokyo on July 5.

CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace and Correspondent Marina Kamimura contributed to this report.





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