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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 12:07 GMT
On tour with President Bush - Day Four
The BBC's Nick Bryant is travelling with US President George W Bush on his tour of Asia. He will be sending us regular e-mails charting the president's progress around the region.

Day Four - Dateline: En route from Tokyo to Seoul
1009GMT, 19 February

The snow-carpeted slopes of Mount Fuji provided a brief but spectacular distraction, as we began to focus on the next stage of the trip, the President's visit to Seoul.

Journalistically, it is sure to be the most fascinating 48 hours of the three-country tour, with the President coming within sight of the famed "axis of evil".

Indeed, his visit to the fringes of the demilitarised zone on Wednesday harks back to Ronald Reagan's speech in front of the Berlin Wall in 1987, when he called upon Michael Gorbachev to "tear down this wall".

US policy seems predicated on the view that North Korea, like the Soviet Union's 'evil empire', will eventually collapse

But Mr Bush is unlikely to adopt such a bellicose tone, knowing that his State of the Union speech has already angered South Korean officials.

Without question, it cast a long shadow over President Kim Dae- jung's "Sunshine Policy" towards the North, which culminated in June 2000 with the historic summit meeting in Pyongyang between President Kim and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

It also marked a stark new departure in American policy towards the Korean peninsula.

President George W. Bush (second from right) arrives to the Japanese Parliament before delivering a speech
Mr Bush's speech failed to scale the rhetorical heights
President Clinton had not only been an enthusiastic supporter of the Sunshine Policy but had pressed ahead with a serious dialogue of his own, aimed at banning all North Korean sales of missiles and missile technology and limiting the production of new weapons (especially those capable of carrying a 1,000lb payload more than 180 miles).

In return, North Korea would have received millions in dollars in aid (one of the main reasons it exports weapons to countries like Libya and Iran is to get hard currency) and a possible visit from President Clinton.

The Bush administration is still prepared to conduct negotiations (US Secretary of State Colin Powell says anytime, anywhere), but knows that Kim Jong-il is unlikely to return to the bargaining table after January's State of the Union speech.

Even before that, the new administration had stiffened President Clinton's demands, by calling more rigorous inspections of the county's missile sites, which the North Koreans had rejected.

George Bush tries on a gift winter jacket in Alaska
A rare visit to chilly Alaska by a US president
A few months ago, Kim Dae-jung had great hopes for this presidential visit, believing that he could persuade President Bush to lead an international effort to bring back North Korea to the bargaining table.

But now he has set his sights much lower: simply to get the Americans to endorse his policy of engagement.

President Bush has done that already. Beyond that, American policy seems to be predicated on the view that North Korea, rather like the Soviet Union's "evil empire", will eventually collapse.

A pre-emptive military strike is unthinkable, because the military chiefs well know that, despite the presence of some 37,000 US personnel, the Americans could not defend Seoul.

Day Four - Dateline: Tokyo
0141GMT, 19 February

George W Bush has just become the third American president to address the Japanese parliament, or Diet, following in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

There was bold talk of the 21st Century being the "Pacific Century" - a period in which American power would be projected into the Philippines, Australia and Thailand, and be used to protect South Korea from the North.

President George W. Bush (second from right) arrives to the Japanese Parliament before delivering a speech
Mr Bush's speech failed to scale the rhetorical heights
Mr Bush hinted at a new era of Sino-US relations, working with China "in the great task of building a prosperous and stable Asia for our children and grandchildren".

But for all the lofty rhetoric, the speech failed to scale the rhetorical heights.

Part of the problem is that Mr Bush, like so many world leaders, speaks so often in vague generalities.

Few of his phrases are memorable or even newsworthy, and they tend to state the obvious - "we seek a region with strong institutions of economic and political co-operation", "we seek a peaceful region".

When Roosevelt, Wilson or Kennedy made historical or literary references, they knew precisely who they were referring to

Another difficulty is that many of his set-piece speeches lack authenticity.

There is a strong sense that, apart from providing the broad themes to his speech-writers, Mr Bush has had little part in their drafting.

Most presidents are the same. But with Mr Bush, there is a much stronger feeling that his writers are coming up with lines that, up until 18 months ago, he would never have dreamed of saying.

There was talk for example of Inazo Nitobe, the great Japanese scholar and statesman, and Yukichi Fukuzawa, one of the heroes of the Meiji Restoration, whose economic ideas transformed the world.

As he translated an important economic textbook into Japanese, he came across an English word with no Japanese equivalent: "competition".

So he coined a new word - "kyoso". I confess that, before this morning, I had never heard of either Mssrs Nitobe or Fukuzawa.

But neither, I suspect, had President Bush.

When Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson or Jack Kennedy made historical or literary references, they knew precisely who they were referring to and what had been their impact.

With Mr Bush, you never get a sense of that same intellectual depth.

He speaks instead with great moral certainty, as Ronald Reagan did, stressing the strength and determination of his character, rather than the breadth or depth of his knowledge.

Click here for Day Three
Click here for Day Two
Click here for Day One

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