George Bush photo

Interview With Charles Bierbauer of CNN at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

December 07, 1991

Pearl Harbor

Q. This is Charles Bierbauer with President Bush on board the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri.

Mr. President, thank you for joining us with the Arizona Memorial behind us. As you were there this morning, a day which you've described as a very emotional one, the sense of an apology from Japan for the events at Pearl Harbor, how necessary is that?

The President. I don't think it's necessary. The Prime Minister very forthrightly expressed either regrets or remorse. I can't remember the word that was used. But this is a time for healing. This is a time for looking forward.

We won the war. We made a tremendous contribution to freedom by winning the war -- war ending right on the decks of this very vessel. And this is not a time for recrimination or rancor. And so my message is one of healing, of going forward -- tough competitors, being tough in competition for business and markets, but not looking back in the sense of bitterness and hatred.

Q. And yet you've heard from many of the survivors a sense that they still -- --

The President. Yes.

Q. -- -- perhaps have that rancor. Can this be a demarcation at this point?

The President. It should be a demarcation. It should be a turning forward. And I can understand the bitterness. What is it, a thousand sailors still there in that tomb? And dealing with those families today and meeting them was for me very, very emotional. But I really think this is a time to look forward. And I can say to them, I understand part of what you're going through. I lost a lot of fallen comrades, two roommates, many others. But this isn't the time for recrimination. And I don't think most of them feel that way. I think most of them say, look, my husband, my son, my grandfather did not die in vain.

Anti-Japanese Sentiment

Q. A few months ago when you met with then-Prime Minister Kaifu, he complained about Japan bashing, about feeling unappreciated over there. Why do you think that persists?

The President. Well, I complained a little bit about saying, "Hey, wait a minute, there's some Europe bashing in Japan." And I don't think it should exist in either country. And there's some nationalists there that feel bitter about the United States. And there's people in our country that feel bitter about Japan and bash Japan -- in other words, instead of trying to compete better, try to take it out on Japan.

I don't know why it is. I hope it is not based on bigotry or some racial concept on either side of the Pacific.

Q. Do you think it could be?

The President. I hope not, and I don't want to say that. But we all know that back in the days of World War II there was such a feeling. I was there. I was a young man then, and I remember it. But that's not the case today. And I'm not saying there's no residues of that nature, but if it is, we ought to speak out against it. This is the time for fair competition, and I'm going to take that message to Japan. Fair, free markets, but they've got to be fair. And let's do business on that basis with respect. Let's recognize that we've come together since the war.

They're democratic now. They were totalitarians and imperialists back then. And so we shouldn't be recriminatory.

Trade With Japan

Q. You will be in Japan in the beginning of January.

The President. Yes.

Q. Does the message go beyond that? Are you at a point where you can break this logjam on trade?

The President. I hope so. I'm not sure where the logjam -- there are some things that are moving; there are some things that we feel we've been stonewalled on, to be very candid. And I'm going to take a good, tough message out there. And I expect they will level with me where they feel we have been discriminatory or being two-sided, say one thing and do something else.

But that's the way we ought to do business, look them in the eye and say, "Now, wait a minute, you can't have a one-way street. We want access to your markets." But it shouldn't be based on what happened here 50 years ago with some vestiges of discrimination or recrimination.

Relations With Asian Nations

Q. Mr. President, a lot of people seem to think that our relations with the Asian countries, Japan among them, have been based for the last several decades on a circling of the Soviet Union, a containment of the Soviet Union. You don't have a Soviet Union to contain anymore in the same sense. How does that change your relationship with Asia?

The President. I don't really feel that our relationship with the Asian countries or Japan is based on this concept of encirclement. I feel that it should be based on expanding markets, and expanding markets means more jobs for the people in the United States. So Pacific countries are our biggest trading partners. So I don't think it's based, that we ever based our relationship with those countries on trying to encircle the Soviet Union. They might have felt that way -- the old Soviet Union.

But I don't think today anybody feels that our reaching out to Japan or our being with Japan or Japan standing with us in the war against Japan is because of encircling the Soviet Union. I think it's much more sophisticated than that, much more forward-looking than that, and much more positive in terms of the benefits to the American people, provided we can do better in getting the access to the markets that I think we must have.

Q. Mr. President, thank you very much for joining us here on the U.S.S. Missouri.

The President. Some beautiful day out here.

Q. It's a very beautiful day. Thank you.

The President. Thank you, sir.

Note: The interview began at 10:26 a.m. aboard the U.S.S. Missouri. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

George Bush, Interview With Charles Bierbauer of CNN at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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