U.S.-Japanese diplomacy is getting All Shook Up.
The White House announced that President George W. Bush is taking Japanese Prime Minister and big-time Elvis fan Junichiro Koizumi to Memphis, Tennessee, for a pilgrimage to Graceland.
The trip is scheduled for June 30, a day after the two leaders are scheduled to meet at the White House, Bush spokesman Tony Snow said in a statement Tuesday.
No karaoke machine will be needed for Koizumi to break into song, as he has done in the past among heads of state and celebrities.
The prime minister serenaded Bush with, "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" at a birthday party for the president last year. Koizumi also performed a duet version of the tune, said to be his favorite, with Tom Cruise when the actor visited Japan to promote his movie "The Last Samurai."
The crooning leader's tribute renditions of 25 Elvis songs were made available in 2001 on his charity CD, "Junichiro Koizumi Presents: My Favorite Elvis Songs." He appears on the cover in an altered photograph with Elvis in front of Graceland.
"It's exciting," Jack Soden, chief executive of Elvis Presley Enterprises, said Wednesday of the upcoming visit. "Two world leaders, plus Elvis, plus Graceland."
Soden estimated 5,000 Japanese tourists visit Graceland annually, making up 1 percent of all visitors.
"Even though many of them don't speak English, many of our Japanese visitors will break into song," said Soden, adding the phonetic renditions are often quite good. Koizumi "is absolutely welcome to as well."
Koizumi, born Jan. 8, has also pointed out that he shares a birthday with Elvis.
Bush regales in telling about Koizumi's love of Elvis as part of his stump speech. Said Snow, "The president and Mrs. Bush look forward to introducing the prime minister to the beauty and warm hospitality of the people of the Volunteer State."
But the first order of the trip, of course, will be basking in the memory of the King.
Koizumi, who steps down in September, will be in the United States June 28-30, with his White House stop scheduled June 29. Bush visited the Japanese prime minister in November.
Snow said the two leaders are expected to discuss the U.S. campaign against terrorism; security and prosperity in Asia; and global economic issues, reports AP.
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