Japanese envoy
backs role in Iraq

Japan's presence in Iraq is important to show support for its allies and to help rebuild a region vital for its shipping routes to Asia and other assets, Japan's ambassador to the United States said yesterday.

"There's so much at stake for Japan in the Middle East," Ambassador Ryozo Kato told Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle at an informal meeting at the state Capitol.

The Republican governor thanked Kato on behalf of the White House for Japan's support in the Iraq war.

"It's meant a tremendous amount to President Bush," Lingle said. "Japan has really been a great friend to our country."

Japan has about 500 troops serving in a noncombat mission to Iraq this year to rebuild local schools, provide medical supplies and supply clean water. Many Japanese have criticized the mission, the country's first deployment to a combat zone since World War II, saying it puts the country's military in harm's way if they are caught up in fighting.

Kato is in Hawaii on his first visit to the islands since being named Japanese ambassador to the United States in 2001 to take part in the biennial convention of the Japanese American Citizens League, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary at the gathering this week in Honolulu.



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