Byliner: Amb. Baker on U.S.-Japan Alliance, Counter-terrorism

(This byliner was published in a special supplement of The Japan Times February 17. No restrictions on republication.)

Alliance Stronger than Ever
By Howard H. Baker

(The author is U.S. Ambassador to Japan.)

At this week's summit, Prime Minister Koizumi and President Bush will reaffirm a partnership that has served Japan and the United States well for fifty years. I join the President in thanking the Prime Minister for the assistance Japan has provided in the global fight against terrorism, and expressing our support for the Prime Minister's program to revitalize Japan's economy and expand its role in the world. In that regard, I commend Japan for the leadership demonstrated by its hosting of the International Conference for Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan, a landmark in that beleaguered nation's effort to rejoin the community of nations.

Just as Japan is playing a central role in world diplomacy, the health of its economy is important to the well being of the region and the entire world. As the two largest economies in the world, we are entrusted with responsibilities not only to our two peoples, but also to others who depend upon our ability to buy their products, create jobs, and provide investments. After fifty years of shared achievements and values, that is truer now than ever.

I know that Japan faces immediate challenges at home that demand attention. Disposing of bad loans, reducing unemployment and tackling economic reform are daunting tasks. But I am by nature an optimist. Less than six months after the devastation caused by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the American people managed to confront the immediate perpetrators of those terrible deeds and bring signs of recovery to its economy. I am confident, therefore, that the well-known genius of the Japanese people that enabled them to dazzle the world with its economic miracle will once again serve them well as Japan tackles its various problems.

We should remember that the events of September 11 did not turn out in the way the terrorists had planned. While they succeeded in taking lives and destroying property, the criminals did not remove the resolve of democratic people to stand up for what they believe in. Moreover, civilized people joined together so that our individual determination was forged into a united coalition to fight terrorism wherever it arose. Japan was one of the first nations to express sympathy and solidarity with the American people after the horrible tragedy, and the firm support of Prime Minister Koizumi, the cabinet, and the entire Diet, demonstrate the strength and closeness of the bilateral relationship, as well as the bonds of friendship between our two nations.

Our alliance is stronger than ever. Our societies abound in opportunities unimagined by previous generations. And our peoples continue to show the world that the forces of equality and enterprise are stronger than whatever temporary problems we encounter along the path to a free, safe and prosperous world for all.