Clinton trip plays well at home: The President's adept Tokyo summit performance helped restore his authority, writes Rupert Cornwell in Washington

THE TRADE breakthroughs in Tokyo trumpeted by the White House may be less than meets the eye. Others say a string of protocol gaffes by the President marred Saturday's state dinner in South Korea. But by the yardstick that matters - how it plays back home - Bill Clinton's Asian trip, his debut on the international stage, has been a thumping success.

For months latching on to every failure, the columnists, pundits and others who mould the accepted view of a presidency have praised Mr Clinton's performance at the G7 summit. By common consent, he displayed authority, tact and leadership.

This July week has been a triumph for the White House packaging machine - guided by David Gergen, the former adviser of Republican presidents who was summoned in those dark hours at the end of May.

Before the meeting, the administration propelled expectations so low that mere agreement on a communique would have been counted a success. In the event, the Seven came up with an unexpected agreement to reduce trade barriers and a dollars 3bn ( pounds 2bn) aid package for Russia that was slightly larger than expected.

In both instances the President claimed the credit loudly and used the G7 gathering to send the message that the US's well-being depends on the global economy. In 1992, Mr Clinton saw how a perceived indifference to domestic problems cost George Bush the presidency. He will not make the same mistake: the summit might be in Tokyo, but its real purpose was jobs back home.

Mr Clinton and his planners played the card of youth, underlining the change, fresh ideas and energy which, for all his missteps, he symbolises for much of the world. Thus did commentators here read his meeting with the new generation of Japanese opposition politicians, 10 days before next Sunday's general election.

Finally, there was the summit's postscript, a 'framework' agreement on ending the trade feud between Washington and Tokyo. On close inspection the US has failed on arguably the crucial point, unable to extract from Japan a promise to reduce its trade surplus to a specific percentage of GDP. But earlier talk was that nothing would be achieved. Mr Clinton can say he is 'doing something' to create jobs at home.

The skilful control of the media message extended into South Korea. Admittedly at the banquet offered by President Kim Young Sam, Mr Clinton apparently had his hosts twitching with discomfort, first over an erroneous reference to the President's wife as 'Mrs Kim' (in Korea married women keep their maiden names), and then over a protocol breach over the use of an interpreter. More important though were the television pictures the next day: of Mr Clinton determined at the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas and of his enthusiastic welcome among the US servicemen stationed there, complete with a saxophone workout. After the roughest start of any modern presidency, Mr Clinton seems to have found his sea-legs.

PANMUNJOM, Korea - Mr Clinton ventured yesterday to within feet of North Korea, warning that if the Communists developed and used nuclear weapons 'it would be the end of their country', AP reports.

Widespread pain, page 20

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Systems and Network Support Analyst

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Support Analyst

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests