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Bush thanks Koizumi for Iraq support

APEC summit in Thailand

President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi leave the Akasaka Palace guest house after dinner Friday in Tokyo.
President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi leave the Akasaka Palace guest house after dinner Friday in Tokyo.

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TOKYO (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has met Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to personally thank the Asian leader for pledging $1.5 billion in reconstruction aid for Iraq and lobbying U.N. Security Council members to support a new U.S.-backed resolution on Iraq.

Bush was in Japan for 17 hours -- the first stop of a six nation, eight-day day tour which will have the war on terror, rebuilding in Iraq and economic relations high on the agenda -- before boarding Air Force One and heading for the Philippines.

Bush and Koizumi met for about a half hour before dining on a four-course meal with their wives.

"The Japanese played a very helpful and active role, calling people, urging them to be supportive," a senior administration official said.

The meeting in Tokyo marks the start of an eight-day whirlwind tour of Asia, centered on the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' conference in Bangkok, Thailand.

In the bilateral meeting in Tokyo, Koizumi did not pledge any troops for Iraq, but he left the impression he may do so in the future, the administration official said. The two men also discussed North Korea's nuclear program and the six-party process of talks in which the United States and Japan are involved.

While the two men agreed on most issues, one difference was broached with no resolution: Tokyo's policy of pegging the yen to the dollar so Japanese exports are more attractive. Many economic analysts believe the policy has resulted in unfair trade practices and, in turn, a loss in U.S. manufacturing jobs.

"The prime minister did not make any firm commitments," said the senior administration official.

The trip began with a diplomatic embarrassment after National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice referred to the stop in Japan as a "layover," a comment that stirred controversy in Japan.

Even as the administration worked to correct the apparent diplomatic faux pas, another senior administration official briefing reporters Friday once again called the stop a "layover."

Pressed by reporters about the comment, the official shot back, "Call it what you want," adding that the Tokyo visit was "a chance to touch base" among two allies.

Bush's second stop in the Philippines, where he will be welcomed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a formal state visit and give the first address by a U.S. president to the Philippine Congress since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960.

At the core of Bush's message will be the Philippines efforts in the ongoing war on terrorism. "He will touch on such issues as our support for the Philippines democracy and for the fight of the Philippines against terrorism," said the senior administration official.

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," Rice said ahead of the trip.

APEC summit security

Bush will then head toThailand for the APEC summit amid extraordinary security, with hundreds of specially-trained commandos on hand if there is trouble.

The White House says trade and security are expected to dominate talks when Bush takes part in the APEC meeting in Bangkok. One challenge for Bush is winning more support for his approach to Iraq and North Korea, nations he labeled part of an "axis of evil."

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.

On the war on terrorism, Bush told reporters before his departure from the United States, that he understands many people in Southeast Asia, especially Muslims, are suspicious of U.S. motives.

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 to the United States on October 24.

-- CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King and White House Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report


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