[Note: The following, originally published in The Asahi Shimbun section of The International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shimbun, February 28, 2002, is reproduced here with The Asahi Shimbun's permission.]

POINT OF VIEW/Howard H. Baker, Jr.

Continue to be a firm ally and a constant friend

President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi have just concluded a profoundly successful summit meeting in which they reaffirmed the centrality of the U.S.-Japan alliance. The president expressed his gratitude for and admiration of the Japanese contribution to our mutual war on terrorism. He extended his support to the prime minister and his program of structural reform.

This is their fourth occasion to meet and the good chemistry that has developed between them facilitates frank and meaningful discussion of issues and responsibilities that define the relationship on both sides. As the president and Mrs. Bush departed for the Republic of Korea (South Korea), I know that they felt that America and Japan are closer as allies and friends than ever before.

In addition, Secretary of State Colin Powell was able to have his first meeting with his new counterpart, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi. They communicated freely and effectively and have developed a warm personal relationship that will provide an important channel of communication.

During his speech to a joint session of the Diet, the president said that his Asian trip began in Japan because our alliance had brought an era of peace in the Pacific and enabled the region to enjoy both democracy and prosperity. The alliance and friendship between our two countries is all the more remarkable considering our history. We are a people from disparate cultures and backgrounds, divided by distance and language. It was only a little more than 50 years ago that we were involved in a giant military conflict yet today we are not only allies but we are truly friends.

The relationship between Japan and the United States is far more than a paper alliance - more even than the friendship of two great people. In the past decade, more than 40,000 Japanese have annually studied at American universities. Five million Japanese visit America every year and, according to Japanese statistics, the U.S. is the favorite destination, by far, for Japanese residing overseas (more than 300,000 living all over America).

There are few aspects of American culture that are not embraced by the Japanese people and we Americans in turn have educated ourselves about, and grown fond of, Japan and its culture. For many years, thousands of Americans have come, at Japanese government expense, to teach English and learn about this remarkable country through the Japanese Education and Teaching program, the JET program. This has been extraordinarily successful.

In the months to come, our two countries will continue to discuss a wide range of political and economic issues and build upon the strong framework our two leaders have established. Both of us will address economic challenges at home, the continuing threats posed by global terrorism, and our responsibilities, as two great wealthy nations in the world, to the less fortunate. Through it all, I hope that the Japanese people realize that, as President Bush stated, "in all the work that lies ahead, you'll have a firm ally in the American government. And you'll have a constant friend in the American people."

On a personal note, it has now been my privilege to participate in the planning and execution of four summit meetings - three for former President Ronald Reagan and now the meeting between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi. Without diminishing the importance and execution of the previous meetings I can say without reservation I believe this is the smoothest and most effective summit meeting I have ever participated in. I wish to express my appreciation and the appreciation of the president and the U. S. government for the extraordinary cooperation of the government and people of Japan, the Imperial Household and all those associated with the planning and execution of this summit.
The author is U.S. ambassador to Japan.

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