Regalvanizing flagging overseas support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism is one of the key aims of President Bush's six-day trip to Japan, South Korea, and China, his first state visit since Sept. 11. The Hong Kong iMail counseled the president to "moderate his tone" in Asia. Although the countries he will visit "are not without their own problems, Bush cannot afford to be seen lecturing them. … His threats to sovereign states, no matter how corrupt their governments may be, do not help solve the problems we face today from international terrorism." Britain's Independent was also pessimistic: "The best that can be hoped from this trip is that Mr Bush can undo some of the damage that his aggressive rhetoric has done."
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whose popularity has plummeted since he fired Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka in late January, is facing increasing pressure to enact the economic reforms he promised when campaigning last April. The Independent expressed disappointment: "He was hailed as his country's great hope both by the Japanese and by Japan's friends abroad, partly because they were so surprised that such a sclerotic political system could throw up a leader who was charismatic, reformist and trendy. … It will take more than one happy maverick to transform Japan's debt-burdened economy." According to the Japan Times, when they met Tuesday (Japanese time), Bush reconfirmed his support for Koizumi's structural reforms, and Bush thanked Koizumi for Japan's steadfast support in the fight against terrorism. This pleasant exchange typified something Asahi Shimbun identified as the summit's likeliest pitfall: "It would be unwelcome … if both leaders pay too much lip service to each other's problems and turn the summit meeting into a superficial exchange of supportive platitudes. … The time for empty sloganeering and idle chat about determination is long past."
In Seoul, Bush needs to balance his stated support for South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" of rapprochement with North Korea, while supporting his inclusion of North Korea in the "axis of evil." The Korea Herald said that if Washington had "sprinkled cold water" on Kim's sunshine policy last year, the State of the Union rhetoric "amounted to throwing ice over the old politician's vision for peace for the divided nation." The Times of London applauded Bush's attitude to the Pyongyang regime and his decision to "abandon the appeasement of the Clinton era." The editorial concluded that since "Washington has other rogue regimes in its sights before addressing Pyongyang, it should be possible for the two Presidents to reconcile their differences for a while, at least in public."
President Bush will spend just 30 hours in China—the South China Morning Post noted that the longer stays in Tokyo and Seoul reflect "his election pledge to rebuild America's regional alliances after years of Clinton-era 'neglect' "—on the 30th anniversary of President Nixon's landmark meeting with Mao Tse-tung. The SCMP pointed out, "The fact that China has been linked to the weapons programmes of all three nations [identified as the 'axis of evil'] may not have been stated, but it has not been lost on Washington." Still, the paper noted, Bush's mission to China "could not be more different than his first trip in the late 1970s. Then his father, George Bush, was the US's leading envoy in Beijing. The young George W. visited one summer, drinking heavily and trying to date several Chinese women."