Inaugural Tokyo-Washington Dialogue: “The US-Japan Alliance After 3/11”

Washington, D.C., United States

It is a great pleasure and honor to be given this opportunity to speak before you today at this inaugural dialogue to consider the U.S.-Japanese alliance in the wake of the tragedy of March 11th. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to everyone whose efforts have enabled this symposium to take place: especially The Stimson Center, the Ocean Policy Research Foundation, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, and all our friends both in Japan and here in the United States.

As many of you know, this symposium was originally scheduled to take place in May; then the disastrous events that occurred in Japan on March 11th forced its postponement. Nearly six months have now passed since the disaster. During this time, we Japanese have learned a great deal; and we have come to look differently at various things. Among them, the most significant, I believe, is the vital importance of good relations between Japan and the United States. The speed and scale of the disaster relief activities undertaken under the American military’s “Operation Tomodachi” made many Japanese aware of the importance of maintaining close ties with the U.S. Also, the donations raised by the U.S. – from the grass-roots level to the industrial sector – are contributing greatly to recovery in the affected regions. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to the people of the United States for your generous and warm support.

Since March 11th, the average Japanese citizen has come, in this way, to realize once more how vitally linked our two countries are. However, at the same time, there is concern that positive dialogue between our two governments often breaks down. Important agreements supposedly reached between our two countries last year – concerning national security, economic issues, and cultural and personal exchanges – have apparently failed to go forward. Moreover, issues relating to the reorganization of U.S. military bases in Okinawa and to our Economic Partnership Agreement have been put on hold. Allowing these matters to remain in limbo is of benefit to neither side.

Unfortunately, discussions toward resolving these various issues have made no headway, especially because of Japan’s unstable political situation. I sincerely hope that with the formation of a new Cabinet under Prime Minister Noda, efforts will now resume quickly toward resolving these matters.

As you all know, global society today is undergoing structural changes of historic proportion, symbolized by the emergence of China and the other developing countries. Too little discussion is taking place today, however, concerning what new roles the U.S.-Japanese partnership should play globally in such times, from a medium to long-term perspective. This is a situation that causes me even greater concern. These are times when the U.S. and Japan should be working together to draw up a new blueprint for establishing a solid partnership that will continue long into the future. What’s needed today, I believe, is for the private and public sector to come together to create a framework that will enable ongoing discussions from a long-term perspective, even as immediate issues are being addressed.

In 2008 and 2009 The Nippon Foundation organized three sessions of the U.S.-Japan Sea Power Dialogue, convened in Tokyo and Washington. Last year, we held a symposium marking 150 years of amity between Japan and the U.S. and the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between our two countries. As organizer of these events, we gave much thought to U.S.-Japanese relations. And the feeling we came away with was that seeking ways to resolve specific immediate issues is not enough. What’s also needed are opportunities for taking U.S.-Japanese relations forward to a new stage through wide-ranging discussions within a greater, global context. Your gathering here today, as leaders who can impact U.S.-Japanese relations today and tomorrow, and your engaging in free and open discussions, will unquestionably serve as a first step toward achieving that goal.