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Bush in Japan to start Asia trip

President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush arrive in Tokyo Friday.
President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush arrive in Tokyo Friday.

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Bush faces challenges with selling his strategy for containing North Korea and making Iraq safe for democracy during his Asia trip.
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• Special report: APEC 2003 
GDP growth forecast 2003
Australia 3.0 percent
Brunei 3.0
Canada 2.2
Chile 3.5
China 8.0
Hong Kong 2.1
Indonesia 3.4
Japan 0.8
Malaysia 4.1
Mexico 2.5
New Zealand 2.2
Papua New Guinea 1.5
Peru 4.0
Philippines 4.0
Russia 6.0
Singapore 0.5
South Korea 3.1
Taiwan 3.1
Thailand 6.0
United States 3.0
Vietnam 6.9
Sources: ADB, HSBC

TOKYO, Japan -- U.S. President George W. Bush has arrived in Tokyo at the start of an eight-day whirlwind tour of Asia that includes a visit to Thailand for the annual APEC summit.

Bush is due to meet one of his closest allies in Asia, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on Friday during the first leg of a six-nation trip.

The White House says trade and security are expected to dominate talks when Bush takes part in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bangkok.

One challenge for Bush is winning more support for his approach to Iraq and North Korea, nations he has labeled part of an "axis of evil."

Already he has one diplomatic coup under his belt -- the U.N. Security Council's unanimous vote on Thursday to adopt a U.S.-backed resolution on Iraq.

During his time in Asia, Bush will be seeking to win a major commitment from another ally, South Korea, to add to Japan's $1.5 billion pledge to help with Iraq's reconstruction.

The U.S. leader is also expected to press Japan on exchange rates, following Tokyo's efforts to stem the yen's surge against the dollar.

But analysts say Bush is unlikely to come down too hard after Koizumi pledged money to help the U.S. effort in Iraq, as well as send peacekeeping troops.

The yen is trading at 109.85 yen to the dollar in Tokyo on Friday afternoon.

After Tokyo, Bush heads for the Philippines, then Thailand for the APEC summit amid extraordinary security, with hundreds of specially-trained commandos on hand if there is trouble.

Leaders from Russia, China, Australia and 17 other nations will join Bush in Bangkok for the meeting that starts on Monday.

The president wants the APEC leaders to warn North Korea about its nuclear ambitions, and he will discuss plans for another round of six-party talks with Pyongyang.

Two key players -- China and Russia -- want Bush to offer security assurances to North Korea, but he is under pressure at home not to offer any concessions until Pyongyang agrees to end its nuclear weapons program.

Critical front

Chinese exports are cheaper because of a weak yuan.
Chinese exports are cheaper because of a weak yuan.

U.S. military aid to the Philippines to help battle the Abu Sayyaf terror network is just one reminder that Southeast Asia is a critical front in the war on terrorism, with security a critical issue for the economies at the annual summit.

Bush will also be hoping to cut off terrorist movements and financing.

"Economics and security are inextricably linked. You only have to look at what happened in a place like Bali, when you had the terrorist attack there, you can see that the economy and terrorism are linked," says Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser.

In October last year, 202 people died following nightclub bombings on the Indonesian resort island. Among the dead were 88 Australians.

President Bush told reporters before leaving America he understands many people in Southeast Asia, especially Muslims, are suspicious of U.S. motives in the war on terrorism.

Bush says he hopes the trip improves perceptions of the United States. But he also says Muslim and government leaders in the region have a responsibility not to let -- as he put it -- a few killers define their faith or their countries.

Following the APEC meeting, Bush is due to make short stops in Singapore, Indonesia and Australia, before returning home on October 24.

-- CNN Senior White House correspondent John King contributed to this report.

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