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Thursday, November 17, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bush segues into gift for Japan's Koizumi

KYOTO, Japan — President Bush gave Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi a surprise gift of a Segway electric scooter on Wednesday and urged him to take a spin.

Bush, who often refers to his warm friendship with Koizumi, gave the Japanese leader the upright two-wheeler ahead of a summit at which they reaffirmed their close diplomatic ties.

Bush was riding the vehicle when he met Koizumi outside the Kyoto State Guest House in the ancient Japanese capital, a Japanese report said.

Urged by Bush to give it a whirl, Koizumi took a brief ride, and said, "Oh, very good."

Bush told the prime minister he'd given his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and mother, Barbara, Segways for their birthdays, adding he felt Koizumi was almost one of the family.

The scooters can be tricky to ride. Bush fell off one two years ago but managed to land on his feet. It is also illegal to ride them on public byways in Japan.

Continuing an eight-day trip through Asia, Bush flew to South Korea, where he and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun declared today that a nuclear-armed North Korea "will not be tolerated."

The two leaders spoke at a news conference in Gyeongju, the ancient capital of Korea. About 250 demonstrators, carrying signs that said "Stop Bush," gathered at the train station in the city to protest the president's visit.

Roh played down disputes with the United States and said the current state of relations with the North represented "perhaps the most stable situation between the two Koreas that you have ever seen. And the Korea-U.S. dialogue is going on very smoothly."

South Korea has resisted the tough approach advocated by the Bush administration for ending the impasse with North Korea, opposing the idea of military action if diplomacy fails. South Korea also is cool to the idea of taking the standoff to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.

Roh has been a major supporter of Bush's Iraq policy. South Korea is the third-largest contributor of troops behind the United States and Britain.

Bush flew here for the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, representing 21 countries that account for about half the world's trade. Bush will hold separate talks with the leaders of Malaysia, Russia and Indonesia before traveling to China on Saturday.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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