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Bush: Japanese Forces Performed Well in Iraq

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2006 – Thanks to the work of Japanese defense forces in Iraq, Iraqi security forces are now ready to take control of the province where Japanese troops worked, President Bush said here today.

"The people of Japan can be proud of the contribution their self-defense forces have made in the war on terror, and Americans are proud to serve alongside such courageous allies," Bush said at an arrival ceremony for Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the White House.

Koizumi announced June 20 that Japan would withdraw its roughly 550 soldiers, engaged in reconstruction and humanitarian work, from their base in Samawa in Iraq's southern province of Muthanna.

Koizumi said today that although his troops are leaving Iraq, Japan will continue to provide airlift support and any other support needed to coalition troops in Iraq.

"As a responsible member of the international community, through cooperation with various countries concerned and through cooperation with the United Nations, Japan will continue to provide support and help the Iraqis get back on their feet," Koizumi said at a news conference following his meeting with Bush.

At the news conference, Bush said that he and Koizumi also discussed the North Korean missile threat, and agreed that the U.S. and Japan must remain united in sending a clear message to North Korea that a missile launch is unacceptable. North Korea should brief all countries concerned with this problem as to the intentions of the missile launch, Bush said.

Koizumi agreed, saying that Japan and the U.S. need to maintain close coordination and encourage North Korea to become a responsible member of the international community.

The relationship between Japan and the U.S. is remarkable, because 60 years ago the two countries were at war, and now they are working together to develop democracy in other parts of the world, Bush said. He said he appreciates Koizumi's understanding of democracy's power to do good and his willingness to commit Japan's forces to support the war on terror.

"Japan is making a mighty contribution to new democracy, which I strongly believe is in our nation's interests and I strongly believe will yield peace," Bush said. "And I firmly believe that the example that we show today will be repeated over the decades, particularly with newly elected leaders in the Middle East."

Japan has learned from its past and is now determined to maintain friendly relations with the United States, Koizumi said. The U.S.-Japan relationship is one of the most important in the world, he said, and today's meeting firmed the leaders' resolve to work together on world challenges.

"A Japan-U.S. alliance is not just an alliance for our two countries; it is an alliance for the world, and in the interests of the world, we were able to confirm that we need to cooperate with each other," he said.

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