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Remarks to the Diet in Tokyo

April 18, 1996

Madam Speaker, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen: Here in this great hall of democracy, on behalf of all of our American delegation, including my wife, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, and all other Americans here, let me begin by thanking the people of Japan, the Government of Japan, and of course, the Emperor and Empress for the remarkable hospitality we have been accorded in our visit here. And let me thank you for giving me a chance to address the representatives of the people of Japan and, through you, all the Japanese people, perhaps especially your young people.

I'd also like to thank Madam Speaker for mentioning the distinguished Americans who were also born in my home State, General Mac-Arthur and Senator Fulbright. I thank you for applauding the mention of Senator Fulbright's name. He not only helped many Japanese to get an education, but he also gave me a job so that I could complete my university education. So therefore, in a very real sense, I would not be here today if it were not for him.

One hundred and thirty-six years ago, Japan sent its very first diplomatic delegation to the United States of America. It was a remarkable year for our country. Abraham Lincoln was nominated by his party to become President, and he subsequently became the first President of his party and, many of us believe, the greatest American President.

It was a long time ago, 8 years before the beginning of your Meiji Restoration. But some things don't change very much. In his diary of that experience, one of your envoys to the United States described his visit to our Congress, and here's what he said: "We were shown to a large hall where affairs of state were being discussed. One of the Members was on his feet, screaming at the top of his voice and gesticulating wildly like a madman. When he sat down, his example was followed by another and yet another. Upon our inquiring what this was all about, we were informed that all the affairs of state were publicly discussed in this way." Well, today I hope I can show you at least that we Americans have made some improvement in the way we discuss affairs of state. [Laughter]

It seems impossible to believe that it was just 50 years ago that the United States and Japan began to forge what is perhaps the modern world's most remarkable partnership for peace, prosperity, and progress. Today, we celebrate the results. Japan has built one of the greatest success stories the world has ever known. You turned a closed society into an open, thriving democracy. You transformed economic devastation into powerful growth and opportunity for your people. You enriched the lives of millions by harnessing technology for positive change. You have set an example for all of Asia and, indeed, for all the world.

After World War II, a wise generation of Americans reached out a hand of reconciliation to support your extraordinary evolution, first with a security guarantee that allowed you to focus on rebuilding and with aid that helped to lay the foundation of economic growth. Now Japan and the United States are full partners, bound together by shared values and a shared vision. All around the world, the spread of democracy and the greater prospects for peace and prosperity owe much to the work that our two nations are doing together.

Today I ask you to look with me ahead to the next 50 years of our partnership. What will it bring and how shall we build it? As the world's two largest economies and two of its strongest democracies, Japan and the United States must forge an alliance for the 21st century. Working together and leading together, I am confident that we can seize the possibilities and meet the challenges of today and tomorrow to bring even greater security and prosperity to our own people and to bring the blessings of peace and progress to other people all around the world.

Forging such an alliance will not be easy or automatic. I am well aware that there are people in both the United States and Japan who believe that because the cold war is over and won and because the United States and Japan face challenges at home, we should pull back from the world, and we should pull back from each other. But with all respect, I believe those views are wrong.

Think about the world we live in, the revolution in information and technology, from laptops to lasers, from microsurgery to megabytes. This revolution has lit the landscape of human knowledge and brought all of us closer together. Now information and ideas flash across our planet in the stroke of a computer key, bringing with them extraordinary opportunities to create wealth, to protect the environment, to prevent and conquer disease, to foster greater understanding among people of diverse cultures.

But we know, too, that this greater openness and faster change also mean that problems that start beyond our borders can quickly penetrate our borders: the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the threats of organized crime and drug trafficking and terrorism, environmental decay, severe economic dislocation. And in open and flexible societies like ours, homegrown forces of destruction can take advantage of the freedoms that we all cherish. After the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway and the bombing of Oklahoma City, the people of Japan and the people of the United States know this all too well.

No nation can isolate itself from these problems, and no nation can solve these problems alone. To meet and seize the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century, Japan and the United States must continue to be partners. We must join forces, and we must join with those who believe as we do.

Over the next few years we will have ample opportunities to do that. Over the past few years, we have made a good beginning. Of course, we have had some differences. What two great, complex nations would not have differences? The important point is that we have worked through them respectfully, patiently, pragmatically. And we have done so much together that today we can say with absolute confidence that the foundation for cooperation between the United States and Japan is stronger than it has ever been.

The security alliance between our two nations is the cornerstone of stability throughout Asia. We have just completed a security review, the product of more than a year's hard work and study. The Joint Security Declaration that Prime Minister Hashimoto and I signed yesterday reaffirms our commitment to keep this alliance strong and to adapt it to the challenges of a new era.

In our declaration, Japan reaffirmed its fundamental commitment to the United States-Japan security framework and to supporting modern self-defense forces. To guarantee its security and the stability of the region, the United States will maintain 100,000 troops in East Asia, including a strong presence in Japan at about current levels, with the help of your host nation support. And we will more closely coordinate our efforts to meet new security challenges, from stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction to strengthening regional and international security cooperation, from countering terrorism to promoting peace.

Recently, the hospitality the Japanese people extend to our troops was put to a terrible test in Okinawa. The American people profoundly regret the horrible violence done to a young schoolgirl there. Our hearts go out to her, to her family and her loved ones, and to the entire Okinawan community. We are gratified that justice has been done.

In the months since this incident, we have worked with the Government of Japan to minimize the burden of our military presence on the Japanese people. The joint action plan we announced this week calls for the consolidation of our bases in Okinawa and a major reduction in inconveniences to the people who live there, like noise and training and exercises. These steps will reduce the burden of our bases without diminishing our mutual defense capability or our commitment to safeguard a Pacific at peace.

I want to say again how much I appreciate the leadership of the Prime Minister and his government and the opportunity the United States has been given to do something we probably should have done some time ago. I thank you for that.

Both our nations recognize that peace has its price. But the price is much less than the cost of putting peace at risk. Consider what might happen if the United States were to withdraw entirely from this region. It could spark a costly arms race that could destabilize Northeast Asia. It could hinder our ability to work with you to maintain security in a part of the world that has suffered enough in the 20th century through world war and regional conflicts and that is now in the midst of profound change. It could weaken our power to deter states like North Korea that may still threaten the peace and to take on urgent problems like terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking.

Let me say especially to the young people here in Japan and back home in America who will inherit the stewardship of our nations: Some people in my country believe our security alliance is basically a favor to Japan, and some people in Japan doubtless believe that our security alliance is basically a favor to the United States. The truth is, our security alliance benefits both our countries, the entire region, and the world. So to the young people I say, this alliance is our commitment to your freedom and to your future.

And what an extraordinary future it can be. The economies of the Asia-Pacific region are the most dynamic on Earth, already accounting for one-quarter of the world's output and growing every day, improving the lives of your own people and creating ever-expanding markets for others who produce competitive products and services.

Many of these products and services, of course, are American. Already more than 50 percent of America's trade is with the nations of the Pacific, sustaining 3 million good American jobs. Business and tourism are growing rapidly, and they will continue to do so. And to cite just one example of this region's extraordinary potential, in the next decade alone, East Asia plans to spend 1 trillion United States dollars on infrastructure projects alone.

My country, with 7 million citizens who trace their roots to Asia and five States which border the Pacific Ocean, wants to share in and add to this promise. That's why we convened a summit of the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations in Seattle 3 years ago. There, aided by the leadership of Japan, we began to give an extraordinarily diverse region a common identity and purpose, that of a community of nations committed to free trade and investment, to taking down barriers that block commerce and building stronger bridges of cooperation among our people.

As the world's economic leaders, Japan and the United States must set a good example. And we are, from our common commitment to bring free trade to the Asia-Pacific nations to our efforts to improve our own economic relationship.

Three years ago, our nations entered into a framework agreement to better structure our economic dialog and open markets here in Japan. Since then, we have completed 21 separate trade agreements that are making a difference to people on both sides of the Pacific. The sectors covered by these agreements, from auto parts to medical supplies, have seen their sales to Japan grow by some 85 percent, more than twice as fast as exports in other sectors.

Of course, for the American people, these exports mean more jobs at better pay. For the people of Japan, allowing these American goods and services to compete for the favor of the Japanese consumer means greater choice at lower prices. Your own Keidanren projects that deregulation will cut consumer prices to Japanese citizens by 20 percent by the year 2000. Already, to cite one example, because cellular telephone companies can now compete here, there has been a one-third cut in the cost of startup and service fees in the Tokyo region.

Of course, our trading relationship is not entirely free of friction. More work will have to be done to fully implement the agreements we have reached and to deal with other issues. But the important part is that after years of frustration on both sides, for the first time we have actually established a way to work through our differences and to resolve them.

Beyond sustaining our security and building a future of open markets, there are other responsibilities that Japan and the United States have decided to assume because of our position in the world today, responsibilities we have committed to a Common Agenda: bringing the blessings of peace, democracy, and rights to others; protecting our shared environment; harnessing the power of science and technology for the benefit of all. Together, our nations have a unique opportunity to help people the world over to learn, to change the way they work, indeed, to transform how they live. We must seize this opportunity because it is also our responsibility.

The United States is very grateful that, more and more, Japan is taking on the responsibility of leadership that flows from its place as a great nation. From peacekeepers in Cambodia to minesweepers in the Arabian Gulf, Japan is there. From financial and political support for the Middle East peace process to the $500 million reconstruction package you have just announced for Bosnia, Japan is there. The people of Bosnia and the entire international community are grateful for this extraordinary effort on your part. From seeking an end to polio by the year 2000 to finding better ways to respond to natural disasters like earthquakes, Japan is also there leading the way. From cleaning up the environment here on Earth to exploring the heavens above, Japan is there. We are all better off for your commitment to this kind of leadership.

Today, to the Japanese people, whose pride in the past is now matched by your focus on the future, I say, stay true to that commitment to lead. Make it even stronger. We have come so far in the last 50 years. Think about it: from the waste of war to the wealth of peace; from conflict to cooperation and competition; from mistrust to partnership.

Now, I submit to you that our generation has a sacred duty to make the next 50 years even better for all of our people. In this time of remarkable possibility, I am absolutely confident that we will succeed if we continue to lead and work together as allies, as partners, and as friends.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:52 a.m. in the Chamber of the House of Representatives. In his remarks, he referred to Takako Doi, Speaker, House of Representatives, and Juro Saito, President, House of Councillors.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to the Diet in Tokyo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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