Ambassador Kato University of Maryland Lecture September 15, 2004
Thank you very much for inviting me. I like giving lectures on college campuses. It is so much more interesting giving lectures than having to listen to them. I always like going to college campuses and finding out what is on the students’ minds. On the way into the lecture today, I was talking to a young man. I said to him, “What do you think are the three biggest issues facing your generation?” He said, “Nuclear annihilation, worldwide economic depression and parking on campus.” Anyway, I am delighted to be here at the University of Maryland. I know you are the Terrapins, which in Japan are symbols of fortune. I hope the Terps’ football season is one of good fortune, too. Ladies and gentlemen, this year is a special year. This year marks the 150th anniversary of relations between Japan and the United States. In 1854, our two countries signed the Treaty of Peace and Amity.
What an unusual ceremony that must have been. None of the Americans spoke Japanese and none of the Japanese spoke English, so the treaty had been negotiated through Dutch and Chinese interpreters. How different we must have appeared to each other—the Americans dressed in ornate naval uniforms and the Japanese in very formal samurai attire. We were completely different from each other: different languages, different dress and customs, different political systems, different religions, different everything. Japanese and Americans lived in separate worlds. Yet over those 150 years, our two worlds have merged into one. As is so often said, we share values of democracy. We share a belief in the prosperity that comes from free markets. We share in the rightness of lifting up the community of nations. The world that Japan and the United States today inhabit is a world that would be much less stable if not for our relationship.
The commemoration of this treaty provides a wonderful opportunity to take a big picture look at Japan-U.S. relations. Overwhelmingly, those 150 years have been years of peace— with the exception of the four years of World War II. When your grandparents were around your age, Japan was America’s enemy. When your parents were your age, Japan was an ally and trading partner. Today, for your generation, Japan is a close ally, a close economic partner and a close friend. The major point I’ve been making in speeches over the last couple of years—in fact, ever since September 11th—is that never has our relationship been stronger . . . and never has it been required to be so strong. Japan and America have come together in ways that would have been surprising even a decade ago. Let me start with economics. Ten years ago, the movie, Forrest Gump, won Best Picture. The TV show, Frasier, won the Emmy for Best Comedy. And in international relations, the United States and
Japan often felt tension because of our trade relations. We worried about a trade war. My country thought the United States didn’t try hard enough to sell in Japan because it didn’t have the patience to learn Japanese ways. The U.S. thought that Japan’s economy was closed to American products and investment. There is some truth in both views. In retrospect, Japan was isolated in its economic thinking. We were said to be of an island mentality. We wanted to be part of the world economy, but we didn’t want the world economy to be part of us. A word you often heard then, but you don’t hear much anymore, is the word “gaiatsu.” It meant that Japan only changed when confronted with outside pressure. What happened is that Japan began to change its economic attitudes because of our own internal economic pressures. We endured what was called the “lost decade” when our economy was stagnant, if not deflationary. The real estate and stock markets suffered major declines. Japan began reforming its economy in order to face the future.
Today, if you walk down the street in Japan’s major cities, you will see American stores everywhere—everything from the Gap to Starbucks. A decade ago, Japanese would have been shocked to learn that Ford Motor Company would own Mazda . . . or that the investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs would be Japan’s biggest golf course operator with nearly 80 courses. Foreign capital and products are welcome in Japan as never before. Foreigners owned just 9 percent of shares on the Tokyo exchange in 1989; today it is 32 percent. All these things are part of the restructuring of the Japanese economy that is finally showing results. We can see the change in economic statistics. --Business confidence by Japanese companies has hit its highest level in twelve years. --The stock market is up 32 percent in the past year. --Economic growth for the last fiscal year was very strong 3.3 percent. And economic growth this year is expected to be stronger 3.5 percent.
All this is important, because Japan remains the second largest economy in the world after the United States. It is four times as big as the Chinese economy. Combined GDP of the United States and Japan accounts for 47% of the entire world’s GDP. This, of course, contributes to the world’s economic well being. In short, economically, Japan is a different country than it was ten years ago. This is beneficial to the United States and to the world. Our economies and also our cultures are beginning to understand each other. Japan has always been fascinated with things American. In June in upstate New York, a Japanese man from Osaka became the bass fisherman of the year.i And for the fourth straight year, 132 pound Takeru Kobayashi of Nagano, Japan, won Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, downing 53 ½ wieners in 12 minutes. Now, America is becoming more familiar with Japanese things other than our electronics and our cars. Americans eat sushi and go to karaoke bars. Ichiro Suzuki signed a fouryear, $44 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. Tom
Cruise starred in The Last Samurai. Bill Murray appeared in Lost in Translation. I am hoping that all of this increasing cultural familiarity will encourage Americans to work and study in Japan. My government tries very hard to establish bonds between our two countries—for example, through the Mansfield Fellowship Program and the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program or JET program. Just a few weeks ago, about 1,500 American college graduates and young professionals left the U.S. to take part in the 2004 JET program. The great majority of these young people will be assistant language teachers in elementary, junior high and senior high schools across Japan. Maybe this might be something you would be interested in doing. In addition to economic and cultural fields, we are also gaining increased cooperation and understanding in the international arena. Japan, I believe, is evolving from a more introverted country into a more internationally confident one. For many
years, Japan was seen as a “spectator” in international politics. Now, working with the U. S., we are becoming a “player.” In 1991, Japanese Self Defense Forces had their first actual overseas mission, when we dispatched minesweepers to the Gulf as a result of the Gulf War. In 1992, we participated in our first ground operation as part of a UN peacekeeping mission. We have now dispatched personnel for seven peacekeeping missions and five international relief operations. Japan is also the second largest contributor to the UN, even though we do not sit on the Security Council. Then we come to three situations that have caused Japan to step into the international arena as no other events in our postwar history. I am talking about terrorism, Iraq and North Korea. One observer has noted that Japan’s active positions on terrorism, Iraq and North Korea mark the real end of Japan’s post-World War II period. I think that is an interesting way to look at it.
First, terrorism. Someone made the comment the other day that just as World War II presented a greater danger to the world than World War I, the new war on terrorism, which is worldwide and might well be called World War III, presents a greater danger than World War II. The reason, of course, is because of the threat of new technologies and biologies that could fall into dangerous hands. The September 11th attack against innocent civilians was despicable and unforgivable. Among those who lost their lives in the attack were 24 of Japan’s “Best and the Brightest.” After the attack, Japan deployed naval vessels and aircraft in support of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. Japan has supplied and picked up the tab for about 30 to 40% of all fuel consumed by U.S. and allied naval vessels in the campaign. To nurture stability in the region, Japan has given billions of dollars in economic assistance to Jordan, Turkey and other countries in the area. Next, Japan became part of what President Bush calls “the coalition of the willing.” Some people are skeptical that freedom and democracy will take root in the Middle East. Not
so long ago, similar things were said of Japan and other Asian countries. This skepticism was proven wrong. So we are working together to help Iraq back on its feet— politically, economically and structurally. The Japanese Self Defense Forces in Iraq have many missions—giving medical and other humanitarian assistance; repairing schools and roads, supplying water and helping in other noncombatant activities to support Iraq reconstruction. Japan has also pledged 5 billion dollars in reconstruction aid to Iraq, making us the second-biggest donor after the United States. Japan is undertaking to make life better for the Iraqi people—from providing water tankers and water purification systems to emergency medical supplies for hospitals to police vehicles for Iraqi cities. We even sponsored Iraq’s Judo Olympic Team. There is no shortage of areas where Iraq needs help. In addition, we are committed to eliminating the vast majority of Iraq’s debt to Japan. A few months ago, an Islamic group in Iraq threatened to kill three Japanese hostages if Japan did not withdraw its troops. Prime Minister Koizumi was steadfast. He firmly
rejected the blackmail, saying, “We will not withdraw our troops.” Ladies and gentlemen, Japan will not walk away from Iraq and leave America there alone. Let me now turn to the difficult issue of North Korea, which has also convinced Japan it must have an active international presence. North Korea poses a serious threat to Japan. North Korea fired a missile over Japanese territory in 1998. Imagine if Cuba fired a missile over Florida. Hundreds of North Korean missiles can reach every major city in Japan. There is a remarkable satellite photo taken at night of the Korean Peninsula. South Korea glows with light emanating from the activities of its cities and towns. There is life. There is evidence of a civilized modern society. In dramatic contrast, the satellite photo shows that North Korea is totally dark. It is dark not only because it does not have the electricity to give its people light. Symbolically, it is also dark. It is dark because of the repression of its people. It
is dark because of the secrecy surrounding its nuclear intentions. North Korea has implied, if not officially announced, that it has nuclear weapons and continues to develop more. We should presume, at the very least, it has the makings of such weapons. Japan and the U.S. take a position of “zero tolerance” on the North’s possession of nuclear arms. We will seek a peaceful solution, but peaceful solution does not mean pacifist solution. Japan will normalize relations with North Korea— with its attendant economic cooperation—only when the issues of nuclear security and the abduction of Japanese citizens are resolved. The Japan-U.S. alliance is as important today as it was during the Cold War. Japan is not and will not be a “muscle state” like the U.S, which has the capability of massive power projection. Instead, Japan will continue to make its contribution in the areas such as reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, non-proliferation, environment
protection and human security. In this way, Japan and the U.S. are first-rate, solid partners. Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, let me say, especially to the young people here, Japan is proud to be America’s friend. Japan is proud to be America’s ally. Thank you very much.