Symposium Marking 150 Years of Amity & 50 Years of Alliance: “Adopting an Enhanced Agenda for the U.S.-Japan Partnership”
It is a great honor to speak here today on this auspicious occasion.
Today, we celebrate both the 150th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between our countries and the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan.
I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Center for a New American Security, the Ocean Policy Research Foundation, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and to friends both here in the U.S. and Japan for their efforts in preparing this grand symposium.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Japan dispatched its first diplomatic mission to the United States. Charged with the task of ratifying the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, members of the delegation crossed the vast Pacific filled with hope and courage. They stayed here at the Willard Hotel, and were given a warm welcome by the citizens of this country. They could never have imagined that a century-and-a-half later a symposium such as this would be taking place at the very same location.
As one of the individuals who proposed this symposium, it is heartwarming to see so many of you here today to mark this auspicious anniversary. After concluding that first commercial treaty back in the 19th century, the United States and Japan proceeded to build a relationship of solid trust. They overcame the tribulations of World War II by together embracing such values as democracy, the protection of freedom, and respect for human rights.
Looking from the perspective of today’s events in the Asia-Pacific region, the relationship of the U.S. and Japan is beset by many destabilizing factors. These include territorial disputes both on land and at sea, despotic political regimes, arms races, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The challenges which our countries must address as partners are many.
Moreover, these challenges pose a security threat not just within the Asia-Pacific region but around the world. They risk impeding the growth of the global economy.
Now that the Cold War has given way to the fight against terrorism, the Asia-Pacific region faces major changes. In order to achieve stability and a free economy in the region, it is indispensable for the United States and Japan to forge a flexible partnership, adaptable to these new circumstances.
Unfortunately, the relationship between Japan and the United States is today often spoken of in worried tones. As you know, when reading the newspapers or Googling for information, it doesn’t take much effort to find doom and gloom. U.S. disappointment over Japan’s handling of affairs. Deadlocks in bilateral negotiations. Talk of a “crisis” in U.S.-Japan relations.
Such talk has been heard, for example, in the context of the restructuring of U.S. forces in Okinawa, the termination of Japan’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean, and the destabilizing factors in Northeast Asia.
In response to these issues, many people contend that the U.S.-Japan relationship is on the brink of a crisis. One possible reason behind this is the existence of strategy gaps between the two countries. For example, with respect to the restructuring of U.S. forces in Okinawa, there are discrepancies between the military and diplomatic strategies of the two countries, and these differences have been the focus of much attention.
At times like these, we should confirm the goals that the U.S. and Japan share. The impression I gained from the Okinawa problem is that the peoples of both countries have a poor understanding of the goals that were earlier recognized by both nations. Since the two countries signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security back in 1960, much has changed in the world. Two key changes that come to mind are Japan’s emergence as an economic superpower and the end of the Cold War.
In recent years, new threats and destabilizing factors have emerged. Yet some people have doubts about the very fundamentals of the U.S.-Japan relationship. For example, some question why the United States and Japan formed their alliance in the first place. Or they wonder why it is necessary to develop the relationship further.
But given the changes in the global situation, the U.S. and Japan need to consider their mutual relationship not merely as an extension of their earlier strategies. They must readjust the direction of their partnership and create a forum for building a new vision for their future.
Another factor is that the excessive attention paid to specific issues has made it difficult to get an overall picture of the diversity of the U.S.-Japan relationship. When all the talk is of Toyota recalls, for example, the discussion is framed as if the relationship between the two countries is in a precarious position.
This makes me concerned that U.S.-Japan ties are being trivialized. It strikes me that only limited areas of the relationship attract attention today. It is as if clouds are obscuring the big issues that the two countries should be giving priority to over the long term.
I don’t have to tell you that the connection between the U.S. and Japan is by no means limited to the military field. Nor is it restricted to political or economic or cultural matters.
The relationship is so multifaceted that no words adequately describe it. Our relationship is not simply a question of treaties concluded between our two governments.
Japan and the United States are linked on many levels, including ties between corporations and individuals. I believe it is vital for us to probe what we can do as partners for the benefit of Asia and of the world, all the while keeping in mind the big picture of our relationship.
For the United States and Japan to cooperate on common goals, two things are needed: a broad perspective that spans many different areas and that is not limited to strategic matters; and a forum for dialogue that allows for wide-ranging viewpoints.
It is also important that those engaging in dialogue set aside their own interests and positions, and instead seek viable solutions to matters of mutual concern across multiple disciplines.
I realize that all of you here today have your own positions, and that setting them aside is no simple matter. However, given the gradual changes in the global situation, an inflexible focus on one’s traditional position and interests is by no means a desirable course to follow. What I hope is that we can collectively approach the issues that surround the U.S. and Japan from a new perspective.
Indeed, my aim in suggesting this symposium is the hope that it might serve as the first step toward resolving the issues the U.S.-Japan relationship faces.
A look at the list of participants shows what a unique symposium this is. From both countries are leaders in many different fields.
I don’t think it would be possible to see such a gathering of expertise and experience anywhere else. Our ability to invite such influential individuals owes greatly to the cooperation of the Center for a New American Security.
As one of the organizers of this event, I am very proud to be able to provide this forum for the agenda at hand. No matter how much The Nippon Foundation – the organization of which I am chairman – might be concerned about the U.S.-Japan relationship, we have no authority to enact laws or treaties. Furthermore, unlike private companies, we don’t influence the culture or lifestyles of the two countries through economic activities.
What we do excel in, however, is in providing forums for dialogue between people from different fields and in different positions.
People with different creeds and party affiliations. Changes in government or current events do not affect our work.
In closing, I wish to repeat something I noted earlier. It is my hope that you will set aside your respective positions and past experience, and approach this forum from a new perspective.
Defining new goals for the United States and Japan to pursue together. Using those goals to formulate a vision for the next generation of partnership. These are not matters that will be easily accomplished. My hope is that you will speak out freely, listen to those whose opinions differ from your own, be stimulated by this interaction, and gain new knowledge from it.
I hope you will come to see the positive aspects of the U.S.-Japan relationship and new possibilities for contributing to its further development.
Of course, some of you may reach the conclusion that the U.S.-Japan relationship is in dire straits. Or perhaps your perception that the future of the relationship looked a little uncertain will be replaced by the feeling that the situation is so critical that it demands immediate action. No matter what conclusion you come to, I firmly believe that the process will be useful for discussing what vision the U.S. and Japan should share as we go forward together.
Our forum is being broadcast over the Internet in real time.
As we speak, countless people are watching. They are able to participate in our discussions via a virtual forum. In this way, we hope the ideas that come out of this symposium will be shared among many people. We also hope that this symposium will constitute the first step toward defining new ideals for the U.S. and Japan. That it will define what can be done to bring prosperity to both countries and the entire world. My hopes are as high as those held by that first Japanese diplomatic mission when it set foot in the United States 150 years ago.