TOKYO -- From the playground of ancient archers to the cozy dinner table of a "yakitori" restaurant, President Bush celebrated the United States' partnership with Japan but also underscored that as its troubled economy goes, so goes Asia -- and America.
"It is important for the world's second-largest economy to grow. It will help the region and it will help the world," Bush said Monday at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
In three hours of private talks, Bush also addressed Japan's unease about murky U.S. intentions toward Iraq, Iran and North Korea -- the trio Bush has defined as the "axis of evil."
Bush said he told Koizumi "all options are on the table," presumably including military action to shut down those countries' terrorist networks and programs developing weapons of mass destruction.
"Other than that, there's nothing else to talk about," Bush said bluntly. He added that his wish is to "resolve all issues peacefully."
Without mentioning any specific target beyond Afghanistan, Koizumi said through a translator: "This fight against terrorism is not going to be a short one. ... Japan shall continue to support the United Sates."
As for the provocative "axis of evil" label, Koizumi said he presumes it merely "reflects the firm resolve of President Bush and the United States against terrorism."
A senior administration official said that, because Japan has diplomatic relations with Iran and America does not, Bush asked Koizumi to serve as a conduit in getting the U.S. message to officials in Tehran and working out a peaceful resolution to terrorism issues.
Amid all the talk of peaceful solutions, North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, complained of a U.S. "policy of aggression on Korea."
"Japanese reactionaries should also bear in mind that they would not escape their doom if they join in the Korean war in league with the U.S. imperialists in a bid to achieve their ambition for overseas aggression," the agency said.
Bush and Koizumi spoke to reporters before retiring to the Kantei (pronounced KAHN-tey), Japan's equivalent of the White House, for a reception with Japanese cabinet ministers, business leaders, artists and sports and pop stars.
Koizumi later treated the president and first lady Laura Bush to a cozy, casual dinner at a Tokyo restaurant specializing in yakitori, or grilled chicken on a skewer.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.