Tuesday, December 2, 2003

TOKYO — A Japanese diplomat slain by gunmen in Iraq last weekend wrote a poignant diary entry in which he asked his reluctant countrymen to stand firm in the fight against terror.

In November, after visiting the site of a suicide bombing in Nassiriya, Katsuhiko Oku wrote: “What we should learn from this tragedy is to have stronger determination not to yield to terrorists. Terrorist attacks could happen anywhere in the world. The elimination of terrorism is therefore a goal to be sought by all of us.”

Mr. Oku, 45, was fatally shot near Tikrit along with his colleague, Masamori Inoue, 30. They were the first Japanese to be killed since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Their deaths have deepened concern in Japan about the wisdom of sending troops to help the reconstruction of Iraq. However, Japanese media yesterday reported Mr. Oku’s own determination to help rebuild Iraq expressed on his Internet diary on the Foreign Ministry Web site.

Mr. Oku, who had been serving in Iraq since April, wrote how the death of a Canadian friend in the bombing of the U.N. building in Baghdad in August had spurred him to greater efforts.

By chance, amid the rubble of the building, Mr. Oku found the name card of his friend, UNICEF worker Christopher Klein-Beekman.

He wrote in his diary: “It was as though the card was telling me: ‘My Japanese friend, go straight ahead. Don’t hesitate. There are things that must be done.’”

Mr. Oku recorded how ordinary Iraqis were grateful to the allied nations trying to restore order to Iraq and rebuild its shattered infrastructure.

But he argued that the removal of Saddam was not in itself enough.

After touring schools in Iraq, he encouraged Japan to provide aid to ensure that Iraqi children be given a proper education and hope for a decent future.

Other diary reports helped to explain to the Japanese a country few have any real knowledge of, from the delicious taste of Iraqi bread to the extremes of the weather.

Mr. Oku’s last report, dated Nov. 27, was published posthumously Monday. He wrote about how Muslims were marking their holy month of Ramadan and how American troops were celebrating Thanksgiving amid thoughts of their families at home far away.

Foreign Ministry workers held a memorial service Monday to pay their respects to the two slain diplomats.

Members of the public signed books of condolences at a ministry office in Tokyo.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said at the service: “If we have been able to help out Iraq so far, it is because of them. They were the engine and the driver of our efforts.”

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