AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you all for coming – I know everybody here is very busy, so I’m very honored that you all chose to come today. And thank you, Ambassador Fujisaki, for the beautiful flowers you sent me on my arrival and for all you’ve done over the years to benefit the people of Japan and the United States.
Thank you to the ACCJ and the America-Japan Society for inviting me here to speak and learn from all of you, and mostly thank you for the warm welcome and the birthday wishes. I have never had a party this big.
I would like to introduce my husband Ed Schlossberg who is here with me, as well as my colleagues from the Embassy. My Deputy Chief of Mission Kurt Tong I’m sure many of you know well and his wife Mika. Public Affairs Minister-Counselor Mark Davidson and his wife Kuniko. Also here are my Chief of Staff Debra DeShong Reed, Political Minister-Counselor Donna Welton, and Economic Minister-Counselor Jessica Webster among others from my team. Maybe you guys could just stand up briefly? John Nylin is here – stand up.
This lunch is just the latest in a series of events over the past week – each of which has really been incredible in its own right, but also symbolic of the larger U.S.-Japan relationship as well.
I’m honored that President Obama asked me to serve as his Ambassador to Japan. It couldn’t be a more important moment as the United States rebalances to Asia. Relations are at an all-time high; we are making real progress in key areas of our alliance; and the partnership is truly a global one. Just before I left home, this message was emphasized in meetings with the President, the Vice President, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel and National Security Advisor Rice. As everyone in this room knows well, Japan is our most important ally in the region, and Japan has no truer friend than America.
We are bound by a common history and common values. Our countries have overcome a difficult past to embrace a promising future. There are deep and profound economic, strategic, and cultural ties, and our societies share a commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Japan and America are partners in diplomatic and humanitarian efforts around the globe. We’re working together to solve the difficult challenges in the Middle East, and most recently Japan’s Self Defense Forces and American military jointly delivered food, water and medical supplies to thousands of people in the Philippines whose communities were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.
Over the course of the past week, I have seen the same spirit of trust and commitment made visible in less dramatic but equally profound ways.
First, my presentation of credentials to His Majesty the Emperor. I think everyone was amazed by the number of people who came out to welcome me. I know that my Embassy colleagues, Japanese political leaders and journalists, and certainly people back home were all surprised – even my children were impressed.
But more striking than the number was the warmth and excitement that seemed to animate the crowd. It was a great tribute to the relationship between our countries, and I know that it was also a tribute to the family legacy that I am proud to represent.
President Kennedy worked hard to strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship at a difficult time, and my mother often spoke of his wish to be the first sitting President to visit Japan. As a child, it made a deep impression on me that my father’s PT boat had been sunk by a Japanese destroyer, yet just 15 years later he was proud to invite the Japanese commander to his inauguration as President and excited about the possibility of uniting the crews of the two vessels on his future state visit.
That’s a great parable for our larger relationship and a reminder that when we focus on the things that unite us instead of those that divide us, when we look to the future instead of the past, we truly can create a better world.
Change takes work. It takes courage. And it takes perseverance. Those are all qualities I saw in the people of Japan when I first came with my Uncle Teddy in 1978. We went to a Hiroshima hospital and spoke with women who had been burned in the attack. We laid a wreath to honor the past, but my uncle also talked about the future we could build together. I saw then, as I saw for the next 30 years, that he never gave up. He never stopped trying to improve the lives of others.
That lesson is one we can all remember in our own lives, and it’s important in relationships between nations as well. Our parents and grandparents built the United States-Japan Alliance through countless acts of reconciliation, friendship, courage and commitment. Now it’s our turn to continue this work so that we can pass this Alliance on to our children even stronger than it is now.
It was especially meaningful to me to be embraced by the people of Japan during this week of remembrance when I was far from home and family, and I will always remember the comfort and strength it has given me.
That thoughtfulness came not just from the crowds but from political leaders and countless individuals who sent me flowers, have written or spoken to me as I walked Tokyo. The Emperor himself offered sympathy and spoke of President Kennedy with admiration.
Respect for ritual and tradition, and the ability to infuse a formal ceremony with warmth and humanity, are qualities that I admire greatly, and I feel privileged to have been given these gifts by the people of Japan.
Two days after I had the honor of meeting the Emperor, I flew with Lieutenant General Sam Angelella, commander of U.S. Forces Japan and the 5th Air Force, to Yokota Air Base where his headquarters is located. As the military helicopter rose over Tokyo, I saw the giant shape of Mount Fuji in the distance reminding me where I was and how little time we each have in the shadow of something so timeless.
United States Forces headquarters is located in a nice, non-descript three-story U-shaped building from the 1970s. Right in the middle of the “U” where a parking lot used to be now stands the brand new state-of-the-art headquarters of the Koku Jieitai’s Air Defense Command, commanded by Lieutenant General Nakashima. It’s an impressive facility with great capability, the nerve center of Japanese air defense in a tense and potentially dangerous part of the world – monitoring the Senkakus and the DPRK. Right next to General Nakashima sits a chair for the American commander.
Throughout the day, I was impressed by how closely the American and Japanese military are working together. They have common equipment, they train together, and the senior generals have built lasting personal and professional relationships over many years. This mutual respect and close communication are vital to our strategic partnership and evident to every visitor. That’s why this relationship has underwritten the peace, security, and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region for more than six decades.
That close working relationship was underscored during the recent 2+2 meeting with Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel held here in Tokyo for the first time. Work is under way to revise our Bilateral Defense Guidelines for the first time since 1997 and expand the scope of our mutual cooperation. We support the evolution of Japan’s security policies as they create a new National Security Strategy, establish a National Security Council, and take steps to protect national security secrets. We are committed to the realignment of our bases and proceeding with the Futenma Replacement Facility.
Additionally, we are committed to conducting joint exercises and training so that American and Japanese forces can be ready partners in the defense of Japan, as well as continuing to work together in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, economic development and peacekeeping operations around the world.
At the same time, as Winston Churchill said, “We arm to parley.” In dangerous times, the United States has always stood for the principle that disputes should be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue, and we are ready to assist this process in every way we can.
As Secretary Kerry said last weekend, we hope to see a more collaborative and less confrontational future in the Pacific. Unilateral actions like those taken by China with their announcement of an “East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone” undermine security and constitute an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. This only serves to increase tensions in the region.
Japan has shown great restraint this past year, and we urge them to continue to do so. We encourage Japan to increase communications with its neighbors and to continue to respond to regional challenges in a measured way. We will continue to consult especially closely with the Japanese government on these issues. And I know Vice President Biden will be underscoring these messages on his visit next week.
Most importantly, every American should take pride in the patriotism, the level of excellence, and the commitment our service members and their families have to the U.S.-Japan Alliance. The Japanese can see every day that America is here for them as a partner in the defense of Japan. And Americans can take satisfaction in knowing that their forward deployment helps keep America safe, and Asia peaceful and more prosperous.
Speaking of prosperity in Asia, it’s time to talk about Abenomics, Womenomics and TPP. As everyone here knows well, this is a moment of opportunity. Japan is enjoying political stability, economic renewal and is eager to increase trade and investment with the United States. Our economic ties are broad and deep, and our economies are closely intertwined. For example, American products, like the Boeing 787, consist of a large percentage – 35% – of Japanese components, and U.S. companies provide half the parts for the new Mitsubishi regional jet. Insurance, energy, healthcare all represent important sources of future trade and investment. And just this week Bloom Energy and Softbank announced an exciting joint venture.
The Japanese sent a large and enthusiastic delegation to the recent SelectUSA summit, and the entire Asia-Pacific region is poised to benefit from the passage of TPP. This comprehensive, high-quality trade agreement was greatly enhanced by Japan’s participation. It’s complex and difficult yet critical to our overall Asia-Pacific rebalance both economically and strategically. A strong Japanese economy is in the U.S. interest, and TPP is an important lever in Prime Minister Abe’s domestic policy agenda as well.
Ambassador Froman and his negotiators are getting down to the tough issues, but they are optimistic and the Japanese are fully engaged. President Obama is committed to a tight timetable, and I have a feeling that Vice President Biden will deliver that message forcefully next week as well.
But once again, we can’t leave everything up to government. It is up to all of you in this room to make sure that people at home also understand the positive aspects of this landmark agreement, and work to ensure its passage. We must also get ready for implementation so that TPP’s benefits can be widely felt without delay. Our Embassy team is committed to helping you make that happen.
I was impressed that Prime Minister Abe used our first meeting to showcase and discuss his commitment to Womenomics, just as he did on his recent visit to New York. Americans know, and the world has seen, that when women are empowered, the entire society benefits. The IMF estimates that if Japan increased the numbers of working women to the level of other developed countries, its overall GDP would rise 4%.
I believe the prime minister understands that this is not just a women’s issue. It’s a man’s issue. It’s a family issue, an economic and a national security issue, and it’s a moral issue.
In the United States, we still have a good deal of work to do, but I am proud that President Obama’s first act as President was to sign the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act removing the barriers to fighting pay discrimination. And as the first woman to serve as United States Ambassador, I am also proud that the political and economic minister-counselors and our Army, legal and press attaches, as well as my chief of staff are women – and I’m looking forward to learning more about the workplace dynamics here in Japan.
Lastly, over the past two days I visited the Tohoku region where I was deeply affected by the scale of the destruction yet inspired by the strength and resilience of the people there. I was humbled to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. military and my predecessor, Ambassador John Roos, whose deep personal commitment to providing help and hope through Operation TOMODACHI is still being felt every day by the people of the region.
We visited the coastline, where one miracle pine tree remains out of 70,000 that used to be there – evoking the powerful symbolism of the single pine tree in Japanese painting. At the Mangokuura Elementary School, students were amused by my calligraphy attempts and even tolerated my left-handedness.
I brought home little “ambassadors of hope” in the form of knitted creatures made by a group of grandmothers who understand that creativity and community are often all we have in times of loss. Not only does the crocheting help them focus on the present rather than the past, the women also treasure the letters they have received from people around the world who have bought their eco-friendly pot scrubbers. I will be hanging them on the Christmas tree at the Embassy and sending them to friends to remind them of the spirit of Tohoku.
Finally, I was able to donate books to a library dedicated to the memory of Taylor Anderson, an American JET volunteer who taught English there before she was killed in the Tsunami. And when I looked at the list of books that had been selected, I noticed that my Uncle Teddy’s children’s book, called “My Senator and Me” was one of them. It brought a smile to my face to think of how much he and his dog Splash (who is the actual author of the book) would have loved knowing they were big in Mangokuura.
It was two days that Ed and I will never forget. Like the travel and U.S. homestay programs in which 10,000 young people have participated, this visit brought to life the vital role that the TOMODACHI initiative plays in connecting these communities to the broader world. For those of you in this room who have supported the TOMODACHI programs, I hope you will take great satisfaction in the impact that your contributions have made, that you continue to support these efforts, and maybe that you will go and visit the people there who are benefitting from your generosity so that they can thank you in person. I bet you would come back with even more great ideas for programs to help.
Our young people have so much in common. It might start with anime, but it can become Astronaut Wakata, commanding NASA astronauts on the International Space Station. It might start on a back lot in Osaka and end in the greatest triumph in 86 years as Koji Uehara pitched the Red Sox to victory at Fenway Park. Now that the world is interdependent and international, those of us in positions of seniority in this Alliance need to make sure that young people have opportunities for collaborative composition that are varied and meaningful – in the arts, science, education, sports and business.
President Kennedy and Prime Minister Ikeda established CULCON 50 years ago to address similar issues. Fifty years later, we must build on that work, meet the goals of doubling international student exchange by 2020, increasing language study and travel so that 50 years from now, people can look back with the same sense of gratitude that we feel today.
My father admired Uesugi Yozan, an 18th century daimyo from the Tohoku area known for his good governance and sacrifice for the public good. Yozan introduced democratic-type reforms, encouraged people of different social classes to join and serve their communities together in new ways. He lived simply and invested in the future – building schools and starting businesses. In ways that resonate with President Kennedy’s famous call to service, he wrote: “The domain is inherited from our ancestors, to be passed on to our descendants. It must not be thought of as our personal possession. If you put your mind to it, you can do it; if you do not, you cannot. That is true for all things. When something is not done, it is because someone has not done it.”
So now it’s up to us. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I am grateful for so many things – most of all this opportunity to serve my country, to learn from you, to work with you and with the people of Japan, to bring our two great nations even closer together.
Thank you very much.