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US Asks Japan for Legal Assistance in Terrorism Fight

The United States is asking Japan for closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is visiting Japan to discuss a treaty on mutual legal assistance. Mr. Ashcroft says that Washington and Tokyo are trying to put together a mutual legal assistance treaty. Mr. Ashcroft met with Japan's Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi and other Japanese officials during his two-day visit to Tokyo.

Mr. Ashcroft, the top law enforcement figure in the United States, says that the treaty is vital in the war against terrorism. "It's very clear that if one is to follow the evidentiary trail established in this terrorist operation, one has to bridge the jurisdiction of continents and literally follow the trail of evidence around the world," he says.

Mr. Ashcroft did not reveal any details about the treaty or give an indication as to when it might be completed, although he says progress is being made. He adds the two nations are committed to sharing information concerning terrorism and other criminal activity that crosses borders. "The United States and Japan agree that the most important, precise response to terrorism and other types of international criminal activity is a strong, effective, mutually cooperative relationship." Mr. Ashcroft said that sharing information is critical in preventing future terrorist attacks.

The Japanese foreign minister, following her meeting with Mr. Ashcroft, announced a renewed pledge to support the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. Ms. Kawaguchi says Japan will continue its efforts to cut off funding sources for suspected terrorist organizations.

Mr. Ashcroft leaves Japan Tuesday for China and then Hong Kong. In the Chinese capital he is to open an FBI office and discuss anti-terrorism enforcement measures with Chinese officials.