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BUSH welcomes Japan's prime minister to Camp David for talks

CAMP DAVID, Md. (AP) _ President Bush expressed support Saturday for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's economic reform plan and the two leaders agreed to work on narrowing differences on global warming and the much-disputed U.S. missile defense plan.

Meeting at the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, Bush and Koizumi announced an initiative called the U.S.-Japan Economic Partnership for Growth. They said it was aimed at improving cooperation on trade and economic issues.

Koizumi flew to Camp David by helicopter where he was met by Bush and former Sen. Howard Baker, the new U.S. ambassador to Japan. Two rows of Marine and Navy honor guards stood at attention as the leaders shook hands and got into a golf cart to ride to a nearby lodge. Bush drove with Koizumi next to him in the front seat.

In a joint statement, the two leaders agreed their governments should continue to consult about missile defenses _ an issue that has drawn opposition from American allies in Europe. Koizumi has declined comment on the issue except to express understanding for the U.S. position.

``The prime minister reiterated Japan's understanding regarding the president's call for exploring a new approach to transforming deterrence,'' the statement said. ``The president and prime minister also reiterated the importance of cooperative research on ballistic missile defense technologies.''

Regarding Japan's economic reform plan, Koizumi expressed determination to ``vigorously and comprehensively'' implement his program, which includes repair of Japan's problem-plagued banking system. The United States supports the plan even though it could set in motion an increase in Japanese exports to the United States at a time when American companies are seeking relief from imports because of an economic downturn at home.

The joint statement said Bush expressed appreciation for the prime minister's plan, and Koizumi ``welcomed the president's strong intention to support sustained economic growth in the United States through tax cuts and other measures.''

On global warming, the leaders expressed ``their shared understanding of the seriousness of the challenge posed by climate change.''

The Japanese leader, who has been in office for two months, has urged the United States to adhere to the Kyoto climate treaty, which calls for reduced emissions of heat-trapping gases believed to be warming Earth's atmosphere.

He underscored the importance of the Kyoto treaty. ``The president and prime minister recognize that climate change is a pressing global problem requiring a global approach,'' their statement said.

Bush has rejected the Kyoto pact, saying it is flawed and unfair to U.S. companies.

The statement said Bush welcomed Koizumi's offer to initiate high level U.S-Japan to explore common ground and areas for common action on climate change

Overhanging the mood of Saturday's meeting was a rape case in Okinawa on Friday that a witness said could have involved an American serviceman. Koizumi declined to discuss the crime until the investigation was complete.

There has been strong local resentment on the Japanese island over the American military presence, partly because of past misbehavior, including rapes, by American military personnel.

The choice of Camp David as the venue for the summit was a signal to the Japanese of the importance the United States attaches to its ties with Japan.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Thursday that selection was ``very noteworthy.'' He said it was the first time a Japanese prime minister had been invited to the mountain retreat since the Reagan administration.
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