Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan at a State Luncheon

April 11, 2024

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Please -- please be seated. Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Kishida, Evan and I are so honored to join Vice President Harris, Second Gentleman Emhoff in welcoming you to the State Department.

We're delighted to be joined by a remarkable group of colleagues, friends, and dignitaries.

And a special salute to our colleagues from Congress who are here, who just witnessed your remarkable speech. I think it may be, as well, the first time that anyone speaking before a joint session has managed to reference "The Flintstones." (Laughter.) But more about that later.

Now, the very first time that the United States had the honor of hosting a delegation from Japan was in 1860. Their journey then took three months to get here. Upon arriving, they were received first at the White House, then the State Department for what, I'm told, was a boisterous dinner fueled by champagne, music, and dancing. We'll see what we can do about that. (Laughter.)

The Japanese delegation observed a debate in the United States Senate. And at the U.S. Naval Observatory, they gazed through a telescope for their first-ever close-up view of the surface of the Moon.

From the time of that inaugural diplomatic mission, generations of Americans and Japanese have had their horizons expanded by the exchange between our countries.

Since Tokyo's mayor donated the first cherry trees -- we've heard a lot about cherry trees the last couple of days -- to our nation's capital over a century ago, their blossoms are a way that many of us mark the beginning of another spring, a reminder of our friendship and its immeasurable impact on our people and on the entire world.

I shared with the Prime Minister yesterday that people come from across the United States to Washington because of the cherry trees. It's a remarkable thing that this has become one of the most powerful symbols of our capital, and it's thanks to Japan.

Over these past three years, we have invested tremendous energy into making this relationship between our countries even stronger. We bolstered our security cooperation and increased our cooperation on renewable energy. We're deepening collaboration on artificial intelligence, on quantum computing, and on other technologies that will shape the 21st century.

Together with India and Australia, we've revitalized the Quad.

We've elevated trilateral cooperation with the Republic of Korea to unprecedented levels.

Today, we're taking a similarly ambitious step with the Philippines.

We're leading the G7 and meeting the fundamental challenges of our time, from helping Ukrainians defend themselves against Russia's war of aggression to helping countries around the world build infrastructure vital to expanding opportunity.

We're standing side by side in defending a free and open international order that, for decades, has bolstered our shared security and prosperity.

That we've done all this in partnership with a son of Hiroshima speaks to the spirit of healing and regeneration that animates this exceptional relationship.

Of course, the ties that bind us have been forged not only by our governments but, principally, by generations of Japanese and Americans from all walks of life. And like the saplings that were brought here by the Prime Minister, these relationships took root, they grew, and they branched out in ways that were probably impossible to predict.

In 1872, it was an American schoolteacher who introduced baseball to Japan. He taught at Kaisei Academy, the same high school where the Prime Minister would eventually play second base. (Laughter.)

Akira Kurosawa's 1954 classic, the "Seven Samurai," inspired one of our great Westerns, "The Magnificent Seven." Decades later, the American Best Picture "Unforgiven" was remade in Japan with the cowboy traded in for a samurai in Imperial Japan.

In 1963, a Japanese trade official named Kishida Fumitake was posted in New York City and brought along his then six-year-old son, Fumio. The future prime minister later said that his struggles at that time to express himself in a new and unfamiliar language taught him, and I quote, "the importance of listening, especially to those whose voices often go unheard" and first inspired him to dream of a career in politics.

I think anyone who heard the Prime Minister speak last night at the White House and today before our Congress know how he's mastered the ability to speak to people but also, based on what he says so clearly, to listen to them. This is a man of not only extraordinary leadership but deep empathy that's reflected in his leadership.

Not far from here, at the Smithsonian's Modern Art Museum, the record for the two most popular exhibits are held by the same artist: Yayoi Kusama. Many of you have seen these installations, her "Infinity Mirror Rooms," where bright, glowing, polka dotted-cover -- covered orbs seem to extend on forever.

Early in her career, Kusama wrote a letter to the great American painter Georgia O'Keeffe looking for advice. She dreamed of moving to New York but felt daunted. O'Keeffe wrote back to her, "Make the leap." Kusama did, and the rest is truly infinity.

These threads that connect our people, connect our cultures through time, they feel a little bit like Kusama's installations -- spreading with radiant, glowing ties as far as the eye can see, including into space, where we're working together on everything from running an International Space Station to using the James Webb Telescope to better understand how our universe was formed in the first place.

And now, more than 160 years after that first Japanese delegation came to the United States and looked at the Naval Observatory through a telescope at the moon, we've agreed to be the first two nations to step foot on its surface together -- and drive around on it, too. We have a lunar rover that Japan is building, a model of which you'll be able to see when you walk out of the State Department today.

So, please join me in raising a glass. Thank you.

(An aide brings cups for the Vice President, Secretary of State, and Prime Minister.)

Thank you very much.

To all the places we can imagine our extraordinary friendship will take us and even more to all the places we cannot even imagine in this moment going but where we know our determination, our innovation, and especially our friendship and cooperation will one day allow us to walk together.




SECRETARY BLINKEN: And now, ladies and gentlemen, it's a great pleasure for me to hand the microphone over to someone who, as Vice President, made her very first trip -- foreign trip in that capacity to the Indo-Pacific, someone who has been leading our efforts these past three years to deepen, to strengthen our ties to our most critical partners in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of the United States. (Applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, all, and good afternoon.

Secretary Blinken, Ms. Evan Ryan, it is yet again an honor for Doug and I to co-host this important luncheon with you and to welcome Prime Minister Kishida and Mrs. Kishida.

And welcome, again, to all of our distinguished guests. I look around this room and I see extraordinary leaders of our two countries who are doing so much to lay the foundation and reinforce the work that we are doing at this level to strengthen the relationship between our two nations. And I thank you for that.

Mr. Prime Minister, it is wonderful to welcome you back to Washington, D.C. As President of the United States Senate, I also had the great honor of -- of co-chairing your presentation to the joint session of Congress. And you make quite clear that Japan will continue to be strong as a partner and a dear, close friend of the United States.

And Secretary Blinken mentioned that the Prime Minister made reference in his presentation to the joint session of "The Flintstones." (Laughter.) Many of us will remember the cartoon. I thought it was particularly poignant when he said but he's not sure how to translate "Yabba dabba doo." (Laughter.)

Mr. Prime Minister, we are so grateful for your commitment to our alliance. And I will say as a proud daughter of California, I grew up surrounded by Japanese American culture and history -- starting, of course, with learning about the Japanese emissaries who arrived in San Francisco in the 19th century, the first place that they visited in America, and, over the years, celebrating that history, be it in San Francisco's Japantown in the Peace Plaza or in the Presidio, where in 1951, the Security Treaty was signed.

And in my elected career, as District Attorney of San Francisco, Attorney General of California, and a United States Senator, one of my dearest friends and advisors was Secretary Norm Mineta.

And as you may know, Mr. Prime Minister, because of Norm's Japanese ancestry, he was forced into incarceration by the United States during World War Two, yet ultimately became one of the greatest statesmen of America. And he fought throughout his career, understanding the importance of balancing and prioritizing both national security and what we must do in terms of civil rights.

And he showed us that from great pain can come great purpose and progress. And in honor of your visit, we pay tribute to him with the establishment of the Mineta Ambassadors Program to increase student exchanges.

Mr. Prime Minister, I am incredibly proud of the purpose we share and the progress our two nations have made. And as Vice President, it has been one of my great honors to help further to strengthen those ties.

You and I, as Secretary Blinken mentioned, first met in September of 2022 when I traveled to Tokyo to represent the United States at the funeral of Prime Minister Abe. Prime Minister Abe was the author, of course, of the principle of a free and open Indo-Pacific. And he invested in the U.S.-Japan alliance and set Japan on a course of global leadership.

Mr. Prime Minister, under your leadership, Japan's global role has grown immensely and even further, and the United States and the Japan alliance is now stronger than ever.

During my trip to Japan, I flew south across the Tokyo Bay to a joint naval base where Japanese and American sailors train and serve side by side. From the flight deck of the USS Howard, I had the honor of addressing hundreds of American sailors in dress whites, from which I explained the United States is a proud Indo-Pacific power, that the U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region, and America's commitment to Japan's defense is ironclad.

And today, I will add the bonds between our nations and people are also ironclad. Under your leadership, Japan has been an extraordinary partner to the United States. In addition to Tokyo, you and I have met in Bangkok and Jakarta and here in Washington at the Vice President's Residence -- each visit building upon our contributions to global security and global prosperity, from maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait to trilateral cooperation with South Korea to the defense of rules and norms in the South China Sea, a dialogue which we will continue later today with President Biden and President Marcos.

We have worked together to advance investment research development for our semiconductors, resulting in strong supply chains and a strong American manufacturing industry. And building on our first conversation 18 months ago, yesterday we announced that a Japanese astronaut will be the first international astronaut to the moon as part of our collaboration under the Artemis program. (Applause.) Yes.

Ultimately, I believe the U.S.-Japan alliance is a source of great strength for the United States militarily, economically, and culturally. And it is a force for good in the world.

So, I will conclude where I began: my home state of California and Japan. In 1964, as we know, while you were living in New York, as the Secretary just referenced, my beloved San Francisco Giants -- (laughter) -- called up a pitcher from the minor leagues. And in September of that year, that player debuted at Shea Stadium in a Giants game versus the Mets, just a few miles from your school in Queens.

At that moment, Mashi Murakami made history as the first Japanese player to play a Major League Baseball game in America. And I'm told he quickly instilled in you a love for baseball.

So, I will raise a glass to my beloved San Francisco Giants -- (laughter) -- and your Hiroshima Toyo Carp -- (laughter and applause) -- and all the enduring bonds between our nations. Thank you.

(Vice President Harris offers a toast.)

Thank you. (Applause.)

And now I present the Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER KISHIDA: Thank you. (Applause.)

(As interpreted.) The Honorable Kamala Harris, Vice President; Second Gentleman, Mr. Emhoff; Secretary Blinken, Secretary of State; Cabinet Secretary Ryan; distinguished guests, thank you for hosting this luncheon.

The script my staff drafted for this luncheon speech starts with the sentence, "Yesterday, I had a fruitful discussion with President Biden." Quote/unquote "fruitful discussion" is a cliché diplomats like to use.

When I was Foreign Minister, oh, did I hear that phrase over and over again until I almost got tired of it. I also know that when a diplomat says, "Hmm, that's interesting," more likely than not, that person is thinking, "How boring."

But there's one thing I need to make clear. Yesterday, President Biden and I literally had a truly fruitful discussion. And I say "literally." (Applause.)

The President and I reaffirmed the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance. I will continue to work closely with the President to actively contribute to peace, stability, and prosperity of the world we live in.

The success of the summit would not have been possible without the hard work by the Honorable Vice President, Secretary Blinken, and the collection of competent people on your team to whom we must thank with a great round of applause. (Applause.)

Let me quote a phrase in the Old Testament, Proverbs 27. (In English.) "Iron sharpens iron, so -- so one person sharpens another."

(As interpreted.) "Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." Ask an ex- -- expert what this means, and you will be listening to a lecture until sunset.

I interpret this phrase to mean that when people with diverse values and ideas compete against and sharpen each other, something better is created.

That, indeed, is the force behind diversity -- America's strength that I encountered in New York in my childhood days -- and is the power of Team Biden, I believe.

As I look back, when I was little living in New York, I feel that the philosophy and the words delivered vigorously by President Kennedy in his Inaugural Address most resonated among other grown-ups back then. "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty." This is a passage from the Inaugural Address.

Because of this liberty, we are able to leverage diversity as the engine to drive ourselves forward. Indeed, only because both Japan and the U.S. enjoy the liberty and are open and frank with each other are people successful in broad and diverse areas.

Just like yourselves here today, we're able to overcome differences in opinions or positions. We're able to deepen mutual understanding and have produced the enduring power to advance the Japan-U.S. relationship forward.

Let us continue to do so as we have done so far. But for the moment, just let us enjoy the lunch.

The unwavering Japan-U.S. relationship of today is all due to your passion and contribution.

Please allow me to take this opportunity to thank you all once again. May I conclude my greetings by praying for the continued success of you all and for the further deepening of the Japan-U.S. relationship. May I also raise a glass with you all.

Together, with myself, for the U.S.-Japan relationship and for a bright future of a relationship and for each and every one of you, please do continue your success and prosperity.

(Prime Minister Kishida offers a toast.) (Applause.)

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan at a State Luncheon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/371136

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