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Protesters greet Bush in Japan

Riot police surround Left-wing students protesting Bush's visit to Japan.
Riot police surround Left-wing students protesting Bush's visit to Japan.  

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- President Bush arrived Sunday in Tokyo at the start of a three-nation East Asian trip that will focus on many tough issues, including Japan's struggling economy, North Korea's weapons programs and U.S.-Sino relations.

The six-day trip to Japan, South Korea and China originally was planned for October but was postponed after the September 11 attacks.

Some anti-American protesters rallied in the streets as Bush arrived. One group -- holding signs that included "Bush, Don't Ruin My World!" -- protested the U.S. rejection last year of the Kyoto protocol.

The plan set a target for the United States to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, thought to cause global warming, by about 7 percent below 1990 levels within a decade. Bush last week proposed a less stringest alternative that would include tax credits and other incentives to encourage business and farmers to reduce harmful emissions.

About 300 demonstrators pushed to have the United States withdraw its nearly 50,000 troops from Japan, and a third group said they opposed Bush's description in his State of the Union address of North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an "axis of evil."

Before arriving in Japan, Bush stopped briefly in Alaska, where he told an enthusiastic crowd that he looked "forward to sharing with them my passionate belief in the values we hold dear."

President Bush talks about his "axis of evil" comment, North and South Korea and more

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After spending much of Sunday in Tokyo at U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker's residence and the U.S. Embassy, Bush begins his official diplomatic duties Monday with a trip to the venerable Meiji Shrine.

There he will meet Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ahead of talks between the two leaders.

Economics is expected to dominate Bush's visit, and the shrine excursion is seen by analysts as a symbolic act, demonstrating the president's eagerness for Japan to press on with its economic reforms.

Focus on economic reforms

The famous Shinto shrine is dedicated to the memory of Emperor Meiji, who reigned from 1868 to 1912. Under his rule, Japan was transformed from relative isolation to a world power.

U.S. officials have said they believe that before extensive economic reform can take place in Japan, the country must lower its record unemployment of about 5.6 percent and liquidate more than $1 trillion in bad loans issued by its banks.

The two countries also differ over other key issues such as the Kyoto treaty and the prickly issue of how to deal with North Korea.

"I'm convinced that they'll come out with a unified position -- perhaps not an identical position but a unified position," Baker said.

"I think the friendship and mutual admiration between the prime minister and the president will facilitate that."

When Bush's father visited Japan 10 years ago, the flu-ridden president collapsed during a state dinner hosted by then-Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa. At the time, the United States was suffering under fiscal and twin trade deficits, and American politicians were fuming over tough Japanese trade barriers.

The current presidential visit follows a period of unprecedented growth and productivity for the United States and economic stagnation in Japan.

Security issues in South Korea

From Japan, Bush will travel to South Korea, where security issues are expected to be paramount.

President and first lady
President Bush and first lady Laura Bush wave from Air Force One upon their arrival Sunday at Tokyo International Airport.  

A senior U.S. official downplayed initial public concerns from South Korean diplomats about Bush referring to North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union speech, saying the South Koreans are "much more reassured now."

But Yang Sung-Chul, South Korean ambassador to the United States, said Bush's words touched "sensitivities as well as sensibilities" in the two Koreas.

The ambassador said his nation's diplomatic efforts with North Korea, part of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's reconciliatory "sunshine policy" toward the North, is slowly bearing fruit.

Bush's meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Beijing, the last stop on his three-nation trip, will come 30 years after President Nixon's groundbreaking visit to the communist country.

Bush and Chinese leaders are expected to discuss human rights and religious freedom, China's production and sale of weaponry, and the issue of Taiwan, which Beijing has long claimed as a breakaway province.

A senior U.S. official said there was a strong possibility Bush will meet with Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao, who is expected to succeed Jiang at the 16th Communist Party Conference this year.




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