Friendship for the Next 50 Years

By Ambassador Howard Baker

Note: The following, originally published in The Daily Yomiuri, September 19, 2001, on Page 3, is reproduced here with The Yomiuri Shimbun's permission.

In San Francisco earlier this month I had the honor of participating in the commemoration celebrating 50 years of friendship and alliance between our two great nations. What Japan and the United States have done together in moving so rapidly and so comprehensively from bitter enmity to close, warm, and productive friendship stands unparalleled as a living monument to peace. Our alliance, deeply grounded in the countless individual friendships between Americans and Japanese, forms a foundation of stability on which our nations and many others thrive in peace and security. What became immediately clear to me when I arrived in Japan is that what really makes our partnership work is not abstract calculations of national interest, but something far more basic: we genuinely like each other. It is as simple as that. We are true friends.

As friends, we share a common sadness now, and together we mourn the losses of thousands of precious lives cut short by murderous acts of terrorism. I feel deep sorrow for the Japanese people who lost their lives in last week's attacks, and my heart goes out to their families and friends. The horrific fire of exploding airplanes has revealed our vulnerabilities, but has even more clearly illuminated the unbreakable human spirit. As President Bush said, "Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve." The outpouring of sympathy and solidarity from around the world has touched America deeply.

Here in Japan, as soon as news of the tragedy emerged, people from throughout the country came to our embassy and to our consulates. They brought flowers, they brought messages of grief and condolence. We gathered up the flowers piled in front of the embassy's entrance, but more and more arrived. We set up a book of condolence, and thousands of individuals, moved by a common spirit, have come to share their sentiments. Young families with their children lined up to wait for a turn. Prime Minister Koizumi and other senior representatives of the Japanese Government came to give condolence and support. People have left offerings of food and toys, thinking of the children whose families have been shattered. Some constructed 1,000 origami cranes each bearing the message "peace." Through our tears, we will never forget this spontaneous demonstration of friendship and support from our friends in Japan. On behalf of the American people, I thank you.

Prime Minister Koizumi and the Government of Japan have been eager to help, and the United States deeply appreciates this resolute response. We must anticipate an extended, comprehensive struggle against the cruelty of terrorism. There will be many dimensions to this challenge, and the United States looks forward to hearing Japan's ideas for how to proceed, and to working together to shield ourselves against a common threat. We must prevent the recurrence of such attacks and we must bring the perpetrators to justice.

Terrorism is a common threat to humanity. The United States and Japan - the two most productive economies in the world, partners in an alliance which undergirds the stability of an entire region, close friends - will continue to ensure the conditions for ongoing peace and prosperity not only for our own citizens, but for people throughout the world. To our ongoing efforts to combat diseases, promote peace and economic development, advance knowledge, we must add the challenge of stepping up our defenses against terrorism. The resilience and character that our two nations demonstrated in embracing friendship in the aftermath of war will serve us well in facing all of our future challenges, and I am confident that together we will prevail.