Bush, Koizumi trade gifts, homages
WASHINGTON – It’s not every day that two world leaders croon to each other, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.”
But clearly President Bush has special feelings for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and he put them on full display from morning until night Thursday at the White House.
The love fest began with an elaborate welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn and an exchange of gifts inside afterward. Koizumi gave the sports-loving president a bike and an enlarged version of the Japanese postage stamp that features Babe Ruth. The Bushes gave the Elvis-loving prime minister a refurbished 1954 jukebox that includes 25 songs by his favorite singer.
“Prime Minister Koizumi searched the keys and found ‘I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,’ ” first lady Laura Bush said. “He and the president sang a duet.”
In the evening, the Bushes were hosting a formal dinner, the eighth of their White House tenure. It was in honor of Koizumi, who leaves office in September after five years in office.
The guest list included two Japanese-American Olympic athletes – speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and ice skater Kristi Yamaguchi – astronaut Soichi Noguchi and baseball great Hank Aaron.
Today, the U.S. and Japanese leaders had their sights set on Graceland, Presley’s mansion in Memphis, Tenn.
Bush paid Koizumi the ultimate compliment, comparing the prime minister to Elvis, who Bush noted also once visited the White House.
“Like you, he had great hair,” Bush joked during the dinner toasts. “Like you, he was known to sing in public. And like you, he won admirers in countries far from home.”
The White House dinner celebrated Japan-U.S. ties, complete with a diplomatic choice of main course – Kobe beef from descendants of Japanese cattle raised in Bush’s home state of Texas.
The menu was chosen when the United States was still trying to persuade Japan to end a ban on U.S. beef imports imposed over concerns about mad cow disease. Japan lifted the ban last week, and Bush prompted Koizumi to say before the television cameras that he was feeling “very good” after eating a cut of the U.S. meat.
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