- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2005

Envoys move quickly

The U.S. ambassadors in Indonesia and Sri Lanka scrambled to get money and supplies to relief workers immediately after seeing the first reports of the killer tidal waves that devastated those southern Asian nations.

Ambassador B. Lynn Pascoe in Indonesia released $100,000 of his discretionary funds to help the Indonesian Red Cross set up emergency operations on Dec. 26 when walls of water crushed coastal villages and tourist resorts.

“Now this was at the time we didn’t even know what the range of the problems were. We had no sense of the magnitude of it, but we knew we needed to get things positioned and get moving in the right direction,” Mr. Pascoe told reporters in the capital, Jakarta, over the weekend.

The next day, the U.S. Embassy allocated $2.1 million to the Red Cross and $3.5 million to the International Organization for Migration to help provide shelter, water and medical services.

After the press conference, Mr. Pascoe spent New Year’s Day helping load relief supplies on U.S. military planes.

The Bush administration has pledged nearly $15 million in direct aid to Indonesia, which yesterday reported more than 94,000 deaths from the tsunami.

In Sri Lanka, Ambassador Jeffrey J. Lunstead said the United States has committed $2.6 million in direct aid there in what he called an “initial response.”

“It will be higher. It will definitely be higher,” he told reporters on Sunday.

Mr. Lunstead praised the Sri Lankan government for its coordination of relief efforts.

“It’s an incredibly difficult task, and, sure, the government had a hard time the first couple of days. Any government would,” he said.

Sri Lanka, with more than 30,000 deaths reported yesterday, is the second-hardest-hit country in southern Asia.

Japan in the U.S.

Japan’s ambassador in Washington believes Japanese culture is quietly emerging as a permanent part of the American scene, especially in contemporary art and popular cartoons.

Ambassador Ryozo Kato recalled that when he came to the United States three years ago, “there were worries about the reduced level of the presence of Japan in the U.S. Reflecting the sluggish economy at the time, many Japanese companies and factories in the U.S. had to close down, and the Japanese image in America seemed to suffer.”

Today, however, Mr. Kato believes Japanese cultural influence in the United States is “on the rise.”

“It seems like some Japanese cultural forms have a stealth capability, as if they are invisible and separate from economic influence,” he told the Japan Now newsletter.

He cited the popular Japanese cartoon characters in the Anime and Manga series.

“Japanese art, not traditional but contemporary art, … and athletes are doing quite well and are accepted in the U.S.,” he said. “This is a good thing because, in the end, I believe that the strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship comes down to people-to-people communication and mutual respect.”

On other issues, Mr. Kato said his government’s decision to keep its 550 troops assigned to humanitarian duty in Iraq made his “job here somewhat easier.”

He also said Japan shares with the United States a tough approach to North Korea, especially regarding that country’s nuclear weapons program.

“We will not normalize our relationship with North Korea unless and until nuclear issues and other important security issues … are resolved,” he said. “Our approach to North Korea is a mix of both dialogue and pressure.”

Mr. Kato said he expects no change in U.S. policy toward Japan during President Bush’s second term.

“The present relationship is in excellent shape. The Japan-U.S. alliance has never been better. And more important, it has never been required to be as strong as it is now.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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