|For Immediate Release||November 19, 1998|
PRIME MINISTER OBUCHI: Mr. President, ladies andgentlemen, it is my utmost pleasure to host this dinner for youand your delegation. I'd like to express my heartfelt welcome toyou. On behalf of the government of Japan and the people ofJapan, I'd like to offer my heartfelt welcome to the President.
As partners with shared values of freedom anddemocracy, Japan and the U.S. are briskly marching towards the21st century, playing a central role in promoting peace,stability and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region.
Today, Japan is in a period of great transition, whichcan be described as the third opening of our country. Thistransition is a challenge which entails a major institutionaltransformation which is comparable with major restoration andrebuilding of our nation after the second world war. We areresolved to face and overcome this challenge with daring.
Considering that the U.S. always played a major role inan important juncture in our country's involvement with theinternational community, I am hoping that the friendship andtrust of the United States, and cooperation, be a tailwind forour efforts this time, too.
Mr. President, both you and I have been spending,indeed, very busy days for the past several weeks. I understandthat you have tackled literally day and night incessant criticaldiplomatic issues, including Wye River agreement last month andthe recent Iraqi crisis. And you arrived in Tokyo thisafternoon.
I, too, visited Russia last week, attended the APECinformal leaders meeting, and returned home at 2:00 a.m. thismorning. Next week, President Jiang Zemin of China is visitingJapan. In short, in addition to attending a multilateralmeeting, I meet the leaders of U.S., China and Russia within ashort span of only two weeks. Our excruciating diplomaticschedule testifies to the responsibility of the two countries forthe peace and prosperity of the world.
At the same time, observing how you work soenergetically, Mr. President, I come to realize clearly that itis not only liberalism and democracy that Japan and U.S. share;the fact that the leader of a nation, working with very littlesleep is also common in Japan and the United States. This I saywith a great sense of honor, and I suppose it is the destiny ofleaders in democratic nations. So I must say that short sleepinghours and hard schedule has become the solid bond tying you, Mr.President, and me.
Mr. President, the U.S. has always been the source ofdreams and hopes for Japanese people. A few days ago, Sammy Sosaof the Chicago Cubs came to Japan on the occasion of Japan-U.S.Professional Baseball game. Many people in Japan, includingmyself, were thrilled to watch the spectacular home run racebetween Mr. McGwire and Mr. Sosa.
Another source of dream was the Space ShuttleDiscovery. I heard that you watched its launching. Senator JohnGlenn and Japanese female astronaut, Dr. Chiaki Mukai, wereaboard this Space Shuttle Discovery. The scene of Japan-U.S.collaboration performed in the theater of zero gravity has givenmany Japanese dreams and hopes.
Mr. President, on the occasion of my summit meetingwith you in New York last September, I was so grateful for yourwarmth in receiving me. Having wanted to reciprocate thehospitality since then, I am most gratified to have thisopportunity so soon. I understand that you will have anotherbusy day tomorrow, but I sincerely hope that you will enjoy yourstay in Japan.
Now, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, now placed inthe background of this banquet hall -- I think it's going to beplaced -- is a bonsai of spruce which is 250 years old. Thisbonsai, with the branches growing so straight, comes fromKunashiri Island, which is a part of the Northern Territories ofJapan, the return of which is supported by your country. I havetended, nurtured, and cherished this bonsai myself, but I'd likeyou to have it as a memory of your visit to Japan. I hope thisspruce bonsai keeps its straight form in the United States andloved by the people of the United States for a long time.
This comes from a northernmost island, so it's farawayisland and still bonsai is on its way, and it hasn't been placedyet in this banquet hall.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, now I'd like topropose a toast for the health of President Clinton and themembers of the U.S. delegation for the further progress of thepeople of the United States and for the further development ofthe Japan-U.S. relations. Please join me.
(A toast is offered.)
THE PRESIDENT: Prime Minister, Mrs. Obuchi, members ofthe Japanese delegation and honored guests. First let me say onbehalf of the American delegation, I thank you for your warmhospitality.
It is a pleasure to look around this room tonight andsee so many friendly faces from my previous trips to Japan --your distinguished predecessors, your Ambassador and formerambassadors, distinguished business leaders. The relationshipbetween our two countries has always been important, but nevermore important than now.
I, too, enjoyed our meeting in New York two months ago.Tonight I am delighted to be back in the Akasaka Palace. I also-- Prime Minister, I feel terrible about the schedule which weare on together, but since you mentioned it, perhaps we can makesure that we both stay awake at the dinner tonight. (Laughter.)
Let me say, in all seriousness, too, I was deeplyhonored to be received by the Emperor and the Empress today, andvery much appreciated the visit that we had and the good wishesthey sent to my family.
Since my last visit here in the spring of 1996, strongwinds have blown across the world, disrupting economies in everyregion. There have also been threats to peace and stability fromacts of terrorism to weapons of mass destruction. Yet, the worldhas made progress in the face of adversity. It is more peacefultoday than it was two years ago when I was here.
Hope has come to Northern Ireland. Peru and Ecuadorhave resolved their longstanding dispute. Bosnia is building aself-sustaining peace. A humanitarian disaster has been avertedin Kosovo, and the people there have now hope for regaining theirautonomy. The Middle East is back on the long road to peace.
All of these areas of progress have one thing incommon: They represent the triumph of a wide circle of nationsworking together, not only the nations directly affected, but acommunity of nations that brings adversaries to the table tosettle their differences.
Year in and year out, Japan's generous contributions topeacekeeping efforts and your eloquent defense of the idea ofglobal harmony have gone far to make this a safer world. InCentral America you have provided disaster relief in the wake ofHurricane Mitch. I should say, Mr. Prime Minister, that I wishmy wife were with me tonight, but she is there, where they hadthe worst hurricane disaster in 200 years. And I thank you forhelping people so far from your home.
In the Middle East you have contributed substantialfunds to aid the peace process. In recent months you havefurther advanced the cause of peace by taking your relations withAsian neighbors to a new and significantly higher level ofcooperation. And despite economic difficulties at home, you havecontributed to recovery efforts throughout Asia. That is trueleadership.
Now, Mr. Prime Minister, you have made difficultdecisions to overcome your own economic challenges. The pathback to growth and stability will require your continuedleadership, but we hope to work with you every step of the way.
In dealing with these difficulties, Japan can lead Asiainto a remarkable new century -- a century of global cooperationfor greater peace and freedom, greater democracy and prosperity,greater protection of our environment, greater scientificdiscovery and space exploration.
At the center of all our efforts is the strong bondbetween the people of the United States and the people of Japan.Our security alliance is the cornerstone of Asia's stability.Our friendship demonstrates to Asia and to the world that verydifferent societies can work together in a harmony that benefitseveryone.
Two fine examples of our recent cooperation are the newAsia Growth and Recovery Initiative that you and I recentlyannounced, Prime Minister, and, as you mentioned, the SpaceShuttle Discovery, which included your remarkable astronautChiaki Mukai. I understand that when Dr. Mukai spoke with youfrom space, Prime Minister, she offered the first three lines ofa five-line poem, a tanka poem, and she invited the people ofJapan to provide the final two lines. I want to try my hand atthis.
As I understand it, her lines were: "Spinningsomersaults / Without gravity's limits / In space flight withGlenn." I would add: "All is possible on Earth and in theheavens / When our countries join hands." (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to join me in a toastto the Prime Minister and Mrs. Obuchi, and to the people ofJapan.
(A toast was offered.) (Applause.)
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