President Bush conferred Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita in a session designed to bolster their personal relationship and smooth irritations involving trade and defense issues.
Takeshita is the first foreign leader to be welcomed to the White House by the new president. Bush, who has been suffering from laryngitis, told reporters he was feeling much better Thursday."The leaders are not competing to reach any new agreements or to achieve miracles," said a senior administration official. "They are here to get to know each other better, to set a tone and direction of cooperation for the future," he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Takeshita's delegation said that the Japanese hope Bush will press ahead with a joint jet fighter project that has come under attack in Congress.
The agreement under which General Dynamics of the United States and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industry would join forces to build so-called FSX jet fighters was negotiated late in the Reagan administration.
Critics in Congress have labeled the project an $8 billion giveaway of U.S. high technology and have called on Bush to review the agreement.
Bush is scheduled to travel to Japan later this month for the funeral of Emperor Hirohito, but the U.S. official said Thursday's meeting was timely because talks on such matters as defense, the international economy and Japan's trade surplus will be difficult amid ceremonies for the late emperor.
"It's very important for the two leaders to meet early on to establish a personal rapport and a broad-brush agenda," the official said.
Takeshita's two-day visit to Washington includes meetings with House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas, Senate leaders and a lunch hosted Friday by Secretary James Baker at the State Department. After leaving Washington, he plans to visit former President Reagan in California.