President Bush huddled with a group of Asia scholars at Camp David Monday to prepare for his five-day Pacific trip starting Wednesday with stops in Japan, China and South Korea.
The purpose of Bush's first overseas journey is to attend the funeral of Emperor Hirohito on Friday in Tokyo where he will gather with some 150 other foreign leaders to pay tribute to the Japanese leader who died Jan. 7.Bush's attendance at the funeral was viewed by officials as a symbolic ending of the hostility of World War II when Hirohito was considered the arch enemy. The Shinto funeral ceremonies in Shinjuku Gyoen park are excpected to last three hours.
Among the experts invited to confer with Bush at the rustic retreat in the western Maryland mountains were two political science professors from the University of California, Richard Baum and Lawrence Krause; Harry Harding of The Brookings Institution; Michel Oksenberg of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan; and James Lilley, former U.S. ambassador to Korea who is reportedly in line to be ambassador to China.
Secretary of State James Baker, who reported to Bush over the weekend on his week-long visit to 14 NATO countries in Europe, and national security adviser Brent Scowcroft also attended the meeting.
The 64-year-old president is scheduled to hold some 16 meetings with other heads of state in Tokyo, starting with French President Francois Mitterrand at the U.S. Embassy promptly after his arrival in Tokyo on Thursday.
Other leaders expected to meet with Bush in Tokyo include Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein.
Bush plans to hold substantive talks with Japanese Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita the day of his arrival and pay a cortesy call on the new emperor, 55-year-old Akihito, before departing.
Except for the prime minister's reception, there will be little socializing in the Japanese capital during the mourning period.
A senior administration official said Bush and his wife "will convey the condolences of the American people to the new emperor and empress and to the people of Japan."