[Note: The following, originally published in The Daily Yomiuri, September 11, 2002, on Page 17, is reproduced here with The Yomiuri Shimbun's permission.]

U.S. grateful for Japan's support By Howard Baker Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

A lot can happen in a year. On Sept. 11, 2001, I was in Chicago preparing to return to Japan. I never made it. Like thousands of travelers in the United States that day I was stranded by the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

I did not know it at the time, but soon after the attack Japanese citizens began to come to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to leave flowers, burn incense and candles, and say prayers. Some left folded paper cranes. By the time I reached Tokyo on Sept. 15 there was a mountain of flowers and messages from the thousands who came to express support. In the year since that tragic day, as U.S. ambassador to Japan the most profound impression I have formed and carried back to U.S. President George W. Bush, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and the American people, is the good will and unwavering support of the people of Japan. In the year since the attack I have been reminded of that support, good will and friendship on a daily basis.

On Sept. 14, the Japanese foreign minister came to our embassy to sign the condolence book. That same evening Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi spoke to the world's press and pledged "maximum support" for the United States in the war on terrorism. He said that the attack on the World Trade Center was "an attack not only on the U.S...but on all countries in the world that believe in peace and freedom." His message was very clear, "We are with you, America."

On Sept. 17, my first day back in the office, my first visitor was the prime minister, and he personally assured me of Japan's support. Other members of the Cabinet and the Diet soon followed. Koizumi was one of the first world leaders to go to the United States to meet with Bush, and he pledged Japan's full diplomatic support in the war on terrorism.

At a White House press conference the U.S. president said, "The prime minister and I had a wide-ranging discussion about ways that we can cooperate with each other to fight global terrorism," and noted that we could cooperate by cutting off the terrorists' funding, sharing intelligence and working together diplomatically. The prime minister responded, "We Japanese are ready to stand by the United States to fight terrorism...we must fight terrorism with determination and patience." When they met again in October in Shanghai the president said again, "we have no stronger friend in the fight against terror than the prime minister of Japan."

Moving quickly to respond to the challenge, on Sept. 19 the Japanese government announced a seven-point package to combat terrorism. In October the Diet authorized the Self-Defense Forces to provide rear-area logistical support for coalition members and in November the Diet ratified the "Basic Plan" detailing SDF cooperation in the war, a plan that was extended for six more months in May. In June the Japanese government ratified the U.N. Convention on the Suppression of Terrorist Financing. Japan is one of 69 nations supporting the war on terrorism, and its support has been particularly vital in the area of support logistics for the refueling of U.S. and British ships in the Indian Ocean. In January Japan demonstrated diplomatic leadership by hosting the "International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance for Afghanistan," which resulted in pledges from 61 nations totaling $4.5 billion to begin the reconstruction of that country.

One year later, what have the United States, Japan and other free nations accomplished? Afghanistan, which had been a haven for international terrorists, has a popularly chosen interim government. It is no longer under the brutal Taliban regime, and 1.5 million refugees have returned to their homes. Ninety nations have arrested or detained more than 2,400 terrorists and 160 nations have frozen $100 million of terrorist assets. The war against terrorism is not over, but we have made huge strides in just one year, and we have demonstrated that if we unite the nations of the civilized world can defeat terror.

Throughout the year I have been asked, "What should Japan do in the war on terrorism?" or, "What do you want us to do in the war on terrorism?" I have always responded that this is a matter for Japan to decide, and indeed that is what Japan has done. The country has charted its own course, pursued its own foreign policy interests and acted as a leader, a responsible member of the world community, an enemy of terrorism, and a friend of the United States. The American people and I could not have asked for more. On behalf of the U.S. president and the American people let me say simply, thank you.

Baker is U.S. ambassador to Japan.