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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us