Gardner Welcomes Prime Minister Abe in Floor Speech

Washington, DC – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Capitol Hill in a speech today on the floor of the United States Senate. Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday, April 29th. 

Gardner, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, spoke on the importance of the United States’ relationship with Japan, and on the importance of strengthening the bonds between our two nations. 

Video of Senator Gardner’s speech is available here.                                                                              

Gardner’s remarks, as prepared, read: 

Mr. President – I rise to welcome the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe to Congress and to speak to the importance of U.S.-Japan relations and the future of the Asia-Pacific region. 

Tomorrow is a momentous occasion. For the first time ever, our country will welcome the leader of Japan to speak before a joint meeting of Congress.  

For over two and a half centuries, our nations have been intimately linked by trade and commerce. In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry awaited with his ships on Japanese shores to deliver a letter President Millard Fillmore had written to Japan’s Emperor on November 13, 1852. It said in part: 

“I send you this public letter by Commodore Matthew C. Perry, an officer of the highest rank in the navy of the United States, and commander of the squadron now visiting Your imperial majesty's dominions. 

I have directed Commodore Perry to assure your imperial majesty that I entertain the kindest feelings toward your majesty's person and government, and that I have no other object in sending him to Japan but to propose to your imperial majesty that the United States and Japan should live in friendship.” 

And thus our nations embarked on a path and relationship that would change the course of world history. 

On July 29, 1858, the U.S. and Japan concluded The Treaty of Amity and Commerce and in 1860, Japan dispatched its first diplomats to Washington, DC.  They were the very first Japanese diplomats to visit a foreign power in 200 years.  

Historians have often referred to our opening with Japan as an extension of our own nation’s Manifest Destiny, which spread the American people and values westward, including to my own state of Colorado. 

In 1911, President William Howard Taft further advanced our ties by concluding the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with Japan. In World War I, Japan sided with the Allies. 

On March 26, 1912, a gift of 3,020 cherry blossom trees arrived in our nation’s capital -- a symbol of U.S.-Japanese friendship that we witness every spring as we walk through the Tidal Basin and other landmarks in the District. 

But we must never forget the dark pages in our history. We must never forget Pearl Harbor, the Day that Will Live in Infamy.  We must never forget Iwo Jima, Saipan, Guadalcanal, and the bloody battles in Okinawa. 

This war changed our nation forever.  Every day we must remember the sacrifice of the Greatest Generation that prevailed in that epic, civilizational conflict. Without them, this nation would not be what it is today. Without them, this nation may not have endured. 

We never lost sight of perspective of why we fought. As Imperial Japan surrendered aboard the USS Missouri, General Douglas McArthur offered the following: 

It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past -- a world founded upon faith and understanding -- a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish -- for freedom, tolerance and justice. 

Japan’s destruction following World War II was nearly complete. Yet out of that rubble of tragedy, emerged the great partnership between our nations. 

On April 19, 1951, General McArthur went before Congress and declared in his farewell address: 

The Japanese people, since the war, have undergone the greatest reformation recorded in modern history. With a commendable will, eagerness to learn, and marked capacity to understand, they have, from the ashes left in war's wake, erected in Japan an edifice dedicated to the supremacy of individual liberty and personal dignity; and in the ensuing process there has been created a truly representative government committed to the advance of political morality, freedom of economic enterprise, and social justice. 

As Japan took on the task of arduously rebuilding its society and economy, our relationship blossomed. Perhaps bolstering that friendship is a shared national pastime: baseball. It arrived in Japan in the 19th century and was already a thriving sport by the time the post-war recovery had begun. 

Yogi Berra, the New York Yankees great, visited Japan in 1953 in the midst of their rebuilding process. His love of the game won the affection of millions and he traveled the country demonstrating his skills behind the plate. Still, you may pause to wonder if this place—a nation haunted by such recent trials of war, a land struggling to regain its footing in the world, a once-powerful country desperate to turn a page in history—you may wonder if this place is where Yogi Berra first uttered his memorable phrase: “The future ain't what it used to be.” 

With the United States firmly at her side, Japan rose again. 

Japan today is the world’s third-largest economy and the fourth-largest trade partner for the United States. Millions of Americans for generations have bought iconic Japanese products -- from Sony televisions, to Toyota automobiles, to Toshiba laptops.  

In the 1980s, former Senate Majority Leader – and later Ambassador to Japan – Mike Mansfield would describe the U.S.-Japan relationship as the “most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none.” 

The U.S.-Japan alliance remains the backbone of security and stability in Asia. Approximately 53,000 U.S. military personnel are now stationed in the Japanese archipelago, both on-shore and off-shore. Together with our Japanese partners, we work daily to confront the security challenges in the region and to ensure peace and stability. 

As the challenges in the region are evolving, so too must the security relationship between the U.S. and Japan. The Japanese leadership is currently taking necessary steps to change its post-World War II defense posture in order to meet the traditional and emerging challenges in the region. The revised US-Japan Defense cooperation guidelines, announced today, signify a new phase in our relationship and Japan’s emergence as security leader in the region. 

I want the American people to understand the importance of these developments. It is due to U.S. military presence and the steadfast commitment to our allies that we have avoided a land war in East Asia for generations.  Distinguished political scientist Joseph Nye may have put it best when he said: 

“Security is like oxygen—you tend not to notice it until you begin to lose it, but once that occurs there is nothing else that you think about.” 

Our presence in the region has given our allies the breathing space to re-build and stave off aggression. And now they are stepping up to the plate to increasingly share that responsibility with the United States. 

This is also a historic economic moment for the Asia-Pacific region. The United States and Japan are leading the way on concluding one of the most ambitious trade deals ever undertaken: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Eleven Pacific nations from Malaysia to New Zealand and Brunei to Vietnam are actively working to tear down barriers to trade that have stifled access to markets. TPP’s reach encompasses nearly 40 percent of all global trade and trillions of dollars in economic activity. 

TPP will set the standard for a new era of economic relationships with Asia and the United States and Japan are leading the way. We must conclude this landmark agreement as soon as possible and I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made here in Congress to advance this historic pact. 

But we must look at TPP as just one step forward in our commitment to the region. 

Despite the crises of the day in the Middle East or Europe, where the United States does and should play an important role, our nation’s strategic future lies in Asia. 

Just consider the following estimates from the Asian Development Bank:  

-            By 2050, Asia will account for over half of the global population and over half of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

-            Asia’s middle class will rise to a staggering 3 billion people

-            Per capita GDP income in the region will rise to around $40,000, making it similar to Europe today. 

We cannot miss the opportunity to be a part of this historic transformation. Working with Japan and other regional partners, we must ensure that our policies strengthen existing friendships and build new partnerships that will be critical to U.S. national security and economic well-being for generations to come. 

This Administration’s “pivot to Asia”, or “rebalance” policy, which builds on the work began under previous Administrations, is a sensible approach forward to realize these goals.  

I am concerned, however, with the pace and consistency of the implementation of the “rebalance”.  This Administration and the next one must ensure that this important policy of engagement is pursued vigorously at all levels – military, diplomatic, and civilian – in order for it to yield its strategic objectives. Moving in fits and starts is not good policy. Every moment of hesitation and idleness invites ever more challenges and missed opportunities. 

Our partners in the region must know every day that the U.S. is here to stay. We still face grave threats in the Asia-Pacific. North Korea marches on with their nuclear program and belligerence toward the free world. The growing challenges of nuclear proliferation, cybersecurity threats, and the destabilizing territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas, require that now more than ever, the U.S. and Japan are vigilant and united with our allies in our efforts to maintain regional prosperity and security. 

As the Prime Minister delivers his historic address tomorrow, it is my hope that he delivers the message that the promise of the future in the region, bolstered by an alliance with the United States, is a more powerful force than the painful history of the past. 

We must never forget that colonialism and militarism caused untold anguish and destruction in the region in the 20th century. But as demonstrated by the strength of the U.S.-Japan relations following those dark pages of history, it is my sincerest wish that our friends in the region can establish a viable path forward on overcoming this difficult past to focus on building a better future. 

Mr. President, America’s new century in the Asia-Pacific has arrived.  But as we welcome Prime Minister Abe and celebrate our friendship, we must remember that this is only the first inning of this ballgame. 

We must continue to work toward that goal that General McArthur so eloquently stated aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945: “a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past -- a world founded upon faith and understanding -- a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish -- for freedom, tolerance and justice.” 

I yield the floor.