THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release November 19, 1998 7:50 P.M. EST
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND PRIME MINISTER OBUCHI
IN EXCHANGE OF TOASTS
PRIME MINISTER OBUCHI: Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, it is my utmost pleasure to host this dinner for you and your delegation. I'd like to express my heartfelt welcome to you. On behalf of the government of Japan and the people of Japan, I'd like to offer my heartfelt welcome to the President.
As partners with shared values of freedom and democracy, Japan and the U.S. are briskly marching towards the 21st 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, which can be described as the third opening of our country. This transition is a challenge which entails a major institutional transformation which is comparable with major restoration and rebuilding of our nation after the second world war. We are resolved to face and overcome this challenge with daring.
Considering that the U.S. always played a major role in an important juncture in our country's involvement with the international community, I am hoping that the friendship and trust of the United States, and cooperation, be a tailwind for our efforts this time, too.
Mr. President, both you and I have been spending, indeed, very busy days for the past several weeks. I understand that you have tackled literally day and night incessant critical diplomatic issues, including Wye River agreement last month and the recent Iraqi crisis. And you arrived in Tokyo this afternoon.
I, too, visited Russia last week, attended the APEC informal leaders meeting, and returned home at 2:00 a.m. this morning. Next week, President Jiang Zemin of China is visiting Japan. In short, in addition to attending a multilateral meeting, I meet the leaders of U.S., China and Russia within a short span of only two weeks. Our excruciating diplomatic schedule testifies to the responsibility of the two countries for the peace and prosperity of the world.
At the same time, observing how you work so energetically, Mr. President, I come to realize clearly that it is not only liberalism and democracy that Japan and U.S. share; the fact that the leader of a nation, working with very little sleep is also common in Japan and the United States. This I say with a great sense of honor, and I suppose it is the destiny of leaders in democratic nations. So I must say that short sleeping hours and hard schedule has become the solid bond tying you, Mr. President, and me.
Mr. President, the U.S. has always been the source of dreams and hopes for Japanese people. A few days ago, Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs came to Japan on the occasion of Japan-U.S. Professional Baseball game. Many people in Japan, including myself, were thrilled to watch the spectacular home run race between Mr. McGwire and Mr. Sosa.
Another source of dream was the Space Shuttle Discovery. I heard that you watched its launching. Senator John Glenn and Japanese female astronaut, Dr. Chiaki Mukai, were aboard this Space Shuttle Discovery. The scene of Japan-U.S. collaboration performed in the theater of zero gravity has given many Japanese dreams and hopes.
Mr. President, on the occasion of my summit meeting with you in New York last September, I was so grateful for your warmth in receiving me. Having wanted to reciprocate the hospitality since then, I am most gratified to have this opportunity so soon. I understand that you will have another busy day tomorrow, but I sincerely hope that you will enjoy your stay in Japan.
Now, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, now placed in the background of this banquet hall -- I think it's going to be placed -- is a bonsai of spruce which is 250 years old. This bonsai, with the branches growing so straight, comes from Kunashiri Island, which is a part of the Northern Territories of Japan, the return of which is supported by your country. I have tended, nurtured, and cherished this bonsai myself, but I'd like you to have it as a memory of your visit to Japan. I hope this spruce bonsai keeps its straight form in the United States and loved by the people of the United States for a long time.
This comes from a northernmost island, so it's faraway island and still bonsai is on its way, and it hasn't been placed yet in this banquet hall.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, now I'd like to propose a toast for the health of President Clinton and the members of the U.S. delegation for the further progress of the people of the United States and for the further development of the Japan-U.S. relations. Please join me.
(A toast is offered.)
THE PRESIDENT: Prime Minister, Mrs. Obuchi, members of the Japanese delegation and honored guests. First let me say on behalf of the American delegation, I thank you for your warm hospitality.
It is a pleasure to look around this room tonight and see so many friendly faces from my previous trips to Japan -- your distinguished predecessors, your Ambassador and former ambassadors, distinguished business leaders. The relationship between our two countries has always been important, but never more 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 we are on together, but since you mentioned it, perhaps we can make sure that we both stay awake at the dinner tonight. (Laughter.)
Let me say, in all seriousness, too, I was deeply honored to be received by the Emperor and the Empress today, and very much appreciated the visit that we had and the good wishes they sent to my family.
Since my last visit here in the spring of 1996, strong winds have blown across the world, disrupting economies in every region. There have also been threats to peace and stability from acts of terrorism to weapons of mass destruction. Yet, the world has made progress in the face of adversity. It is more peaceful today than it was two years ago when I was here.
Hope has come to Northern Ireland. Peru and Ecuador have resolved their longstanding dispute. Bosnia is building a self-sustaining peace. A humanitarian disaster has been averted in Kosovo, and the people there have now hope for regaining their autonomy. The Middle East is back on the long road to peace.
All of these areas of progress have one thing in common: They represent the triumph of a wide circle of nations working together, not only the nations directly affected, but a community of nations that brings adversaries to the table to settle their differences.
Year in and year out, Japan's generous contributions to peacekeeping efforts and your eloquent defense of the idea of global harmony have gone far to make this a safer world. In Central America you have provided disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Mitch. I should say, Mr. Prime Minister, that I wish my wife were with me tonight, but she is there, where they had the worst hurricane disaster in 200 years. And I thank you for helping people so far from your home.
In the Middle East you have contributed substantial funds to aid the peace process. In recent months you have further advanced the cause of peace by taking your relations with Asian neighbors to a new and significantly higher level of cooperation. And despite economic difficulties at home, you have contributed to recovery efforts throughout Asia. That is true leadership.
Now, Mr. Prime Minister, you have made difficult decisions to overcome your own economic challenges. The path back to growth and stability will require your continued leadership, but we hope to work with you every step of the way.
In dealing with these difficulties, Japan can lead Asia into a remarkable new century -- a century of global cooperation for greater peace and freedom, greater democracy and prosperity, greater protection of our environment, greater scientific discovery and space exploration.
At the center of all our efforts is the strong bond between 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 very different societies can work together in a harmony that benefits everyone.
Two fine examples of our recent cooperation are the new Asia Growth and Recovery Initiative that you and I recently announced, Prime Minister, and, as you mentioned, the Space Shuttle Discovery, which included your remarkable astronaut Chiaki Mukai. I understand that when Dr. Mukai spoke with you from space, Prime Minister, she offered the first three lines of a five-line poem, a tanka poem, and she invited the people of Japan to provide the final two lines. I want to try my hand at this.
As I understand it, her lines were: "Spinning somersaults / Without gravity's limits / In space flight with Glenn." I would add: "All is possible on Earth and in the heavens / When our countries join hands." (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to join me in a toast to the Prime Minister and Mrs. Obuchi, and to the people of Japan.
(A toast was offered.) (Applause.)