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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 11:25 GMT
On tour with President Bush - Day Three
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 Three - Dateline: Tokyo
0501GMT, 18 February

I have a confession to make. I have been travelling with the president for three days now, and I have yet to see the great man in the flesh.

It is the dirty little secret of presidential visits that many of the journalists "travelling with the president" never really do.

Events are strictly controlled, with only a limited number of reporters allowed to attend.


Grim-faced secret service agents keep a very close eye on the aim of ceremonial archers

Some just find it easier to base themselves in the hotel filing centre, feeding their news organisations a steady diet of hourly reports and dispatches.

So, like most of my colleagues in the White House press pool, I watched on television this morning as President Bush kicked off his visit to Tokyo with a tour of the Meiji Shrine.

Much is being made of the symbolism of the setting, for it was built to celebrate the life of Emperor Meiji, who ruled between 1868 and 1912, and oversaw the transformation of Japan from a medieval society into a modern one.

Bush and Koizumi
Bush is not here to lecture Koizumi
Mr Bush is looking for the same spirit of enterprise from Prime Minister Koizumi, but knows that his economic reform programme faces stiff opposition from conservatives within his own party and the Japanese bureaucracy.

It is a difficult balancing act for the president, who has pledged not to the lecture the prime minister about his stewardship of the economy, but who is also deeply concerned that Japan's 12-year slide is slowing America's recovery.

After visiting the shrine, with First Lady Laura Bush at his side, Mr Bush then met up with Prime Minister Koizumi, who had chosen not to join the president to respect the traditional separation in Japanese society between church and state.

Mr Koizumi was determined for the president to watch a swashbuckling display of horseback archery, called yabusame, which dates back to the 6th Century, when warriors demonstrated their skills as an act of worship.

Back then, archers who missed the clay and wooden targets were expected to commit suicide.

There is no such punishment for today's archers, but some grim-faced secret service agents were still keeping a very close eye on their aim.


Dateline: Tokyo
1252GMT, 18 February

President Bush is much more fluent than he used to be, but is prone still to the occasional verbal "fender-bender".

It happened during his joint press conference with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, when he mistakenly used the word "devaluation" rather than "deflation".


He has been more dexterous in trying to avoid the phrase 'axis of evil'

To the uninitiated, it was a minor slip of the tongue; to the world's currency traders a market-moving gaffe.

Mr Bush seemed to be implying that the Koizumi government was on the verge of devaluing the yen, an extremely touchy subject for Japan's neighbours, who believe it would give the country's firms an unfair competitive advantage.

The White House quickly moved to clarify the president's remarks, but it was a costly mistake pushing the value of the yen down to 132.80 per dollar from 132.55.

Bush and Koizumi
Bush is not here to lecture Koizumi
It is partly because of the president's gaffes and stuttering sentences that the White House limits his public appearances.

Since arriving in Japan on Sunday afternoon, he has spoken in front of a microphone just twice, briefly answering two questions at a photo-opportunity with the Japanese prime minister, and four more at a joint press conference later on.

It is also interesting to watch his verbal gymnastics in trying to avoid the phrase "axis of evil", his now famous description of North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

In this, he's been much more dexterous. He seems determined to reach the end of the week without uttering the phrase - and he may very well succeed.

But, then, with President Bush, you can never be sure.

Click here for Day Two
Click here for Day One

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