Bush tour of Asia: from gaffe to gaffe

George Bush stumbles from one gaffe to another as his presence inflames the Far East.

George Bush leaves the Japanese financial markets in a state of nerves after yet another gaffe, this time not knowing the difference between devaluation and deflation. The jittery Japanese money markets reached a momentary crisis point after the US President summed up his talks with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, saying that they had talked about bad debt, “devaluation” and reforms, saying that equal importance had been given to the three.

What he had meant (or been instructed) to say was “deflation”. However, it was too late. The hyper-sensitive money markets took the mention of “devaluation” as a sign that the United States intended the Japanese Yen to devalue, this provoking an instant rise in the exchange rate of the USD, as the players sold their Yen to buy dollars.

A spokesperson from Barclays Capital declared that “The dollar started to go up as soon as he mentioned devaluation, with the investors selling all the Yen they could”. The dollar rose to a high of 132.80 Yen before falling back to normality at 132.50, when people realised that it had been yet another lapsus linguae from George Bush.

On arrival in South Korea, George Bush will find an inflamed atmosphere, provoked by his most recent gaffe from that State of the Union speech, namely the reference to the “axis of evil”. Until now, South Koreans had regarded the US administration’s policy as being one of stimulating constructive dialogue between the Koreas. Mentioning North Korea in the same bracket as Iran and more poignantly, Iraq, has stirred up anti-American opinion in Korea and in recent days, there have been scores of arrests of anti-Bush protesters, bearing banners which read “Bush is the axis of evil”.

George Bush would do well to remember the lesson he received in Japanese culture during his visit. Prime Minister Koizumi took him to a demonstration of yabusame, in which arrows are fired at a target from the back of a galloping horse. In medieval times, the horseman who missed his target was expected to commit suicide.


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