Remarks to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan

Thomas S. Foley, Ambassador of the United States of America
Tokyo, Japan
January 18, 2000
(as delivered)

Thank you, Mr. Schreffler, ladies and gentlemen. Happy New Year to all of you. I am pleased to be giving this, my first speech this century, to the members of the Foreign Correspondents? Club. It always is a privilege - and a challenge - to appear before you.

My friend, George Mitchell, having taken on the role of mediator in the Northern Ireland peace talks, remarked that diplomatic speeches are bound by the banal on the one hand and the indiscrete on the other. He said his technique was to veer as close to these two posts as possible without actually crashing into either of them. It is also said that the definition of a gaffe is "the truth, inartfully told." I trust that, following George's advice, I will begin this new Millennium with gaffe-free remarks, not because they are banal - but because, having polished my diplomatic skills last century, I can speak the truth with sufficient art.

Usually when I speak at the beginning of the year on bilateral relations, I like to project the issues we see as important over the next year or so. Clearly, the President's visit to Okinawa for the G-8 summit and the fact that both our nations will hold elections are at the top of a very full agenda.

But at the start of a new century, I'd like to look a little farther in discussing how we'd like to see the U.S.-Japan relationship develop over the coming decades. I read with great interest recently a discussion of the U.S.-Japan alliance among three of the most respected Japanese leaders and my friends, Former Prime Minister Nakasone, Mr. Koichi Kato, and Mr. Yukio Hatoyama. While I don't want to get into the details of their discussions, our choices today should not be limited to either maintaining the status quo or drifting apart. Ours is a dynamic partnership. I strongly believe that we can articulate successfully a positive vision for where we want to go, making our alliance even stronger in this century than it was in the last.

Our bilateral partnership has evolved over the years from one focused on narrow common interests, to a more equal partnership based on a sense of shared values. In the future, I am confident that these values will not only sustain and deepen our bilateral relationship. Through our continued cooperation, they will also serve as the foundation for a true Pacific Community, at peace, committed to free trade and democratic institutions, and tolerant of the region's cultural and historic diversity. If the story of the past 50 years was how former enemies constructed a flourishing partnership, the saga of the next 50 years must be how our two nations worked together to extend these values and habits of cooperation throughout the region.

Out of the ashes of World War II, the U.S. and Japan embarked on a historic partnership that bridged the gaps of East and West and laid the groundwork for Japan's economic miracle. Fifty years ago, many doubted Japan would ever recover its former industrial prowess. Today, despite the current economic malaise, Japan's GNP is still the second largest in the world and its people among the richest.

Through this period of reconstruction and economic growth, it was the U.S.-Japan security relationship that defended Japan and stabilized the region. Today, our basing arrangements and 47,000 troops still stand guard alongside the Self-Defense Forces. Japan provides significant support for this forward deployment, amounting to nearly $5 billion annually. The recently passed Defense Guidelines also offer a framework for a more pro-active Japanese role in support of our common interests in the region.

The challenge before us now is to ensure that the progress made in this region during the 20th century is not squandered in the 21st. In order to create a true Pacific Community, we need to ensure that the values which have sustained the U.S.-Japan relationship over the past fifty years take root throughout the region. Only on the basis of a common set of basic values - of democracy, respect for human rights, open markets, and transparency - will the Asia Pacific region be able to bridge the many cultural and historical gulfs which still divide it. That the United States and Japan, two countries which could hardly be more different in historical and cultural experiences, are working together to build this community stands as proof that diversity does not mean division. Of course, there remain various frictions and irritants - that is a fact of life in any partnership - and no one expects our differences on trade or economic issues to disappear anytime soon or perhaps ever.

Nonetheless, taken in its entirety, the strength of the U.S.-Japan partnership refutes those who claim that the gap between Asian values and western values is too wide to bridge. Instead of seeking to articulate those areas where we diverge, the United States and Japan have built a relationship that accepts our differences and builds on those core beliefs we both share. If there is one clear message from the past 50 years it is that inclusion breeds dynamism while exclusion breeds malaise. Drawing lines of exclusion within the Asia-Pacific region, whether geographical or racial, would only hinder the healthy development of a broad, tolerant community. The United States is not seeking to remake Japan, or any other Asian country, in our image. What we do want to see is a region that shares a basic set of human, not cultural, values: a community that can co-exist and interact with mutual benefits for all its members.

Perhaps our biggest challenge will be to incorporate China into the region and the world as a peaceful, prosperous and constructive partner. The United States and Japan share an interest in seeing a democratic and open China, a China that respects the rights of its citizens, engages in free trade, and plays a responsible role on the world stage commensurate with its history, economy, and growing participation in international affairs. To achieve these goals, the U.S. and Japan, separately and together, have engaged China on its human rights record, negotiated terms for China's entry into the World Trade Organization, and encouraged China's participation in multilateral security dialogues. Both the U.S. and Japan hold a common hope that China's relations with the world in this century will be marked by cooperation rather than any sense of confrontation. Our relations with China are not a zero-sum game. The United States wants to improve its relations with China, but not at Japan's expense. Our shared values ensure that the U.S.-Japan partnership will be strengthened and deepened even as we cooperate to encourage China's emergence as a full-fledged member of the Pacific community.

A second major challenge in the region is resolving lingering tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The United States and Japan, together with our South Korean allies, are engaged in a policy coordination process that has encouraged North Korea to begin walking down the path of engagement and cooperation. We support Japan's direct engagement with Pyongyang to resolve outstanding bilateral issues so that it can join the international effort in addressing North Korea's pressing humanitarian needs. As Bill Perry stressed in his recent report, we are not seeking the downfall of the North Korean regime. In fact, we have extended the hand of cooperation and dialogue to Pyongyang. However, before we can build a safe and secure Pacific Community, North Korea needs to desist from threatening its neighbors, exporting destabilizing weapons, and engaging in behavior that leaves it isolated from the international community. We believe Japan's engagement with the DPRK reinforces our own efforts with North Korea and will help move us toward the common goal of a more stable Korean Peninsula.

While our efforts to reduce tensions in Northeast Asia are just beginning, we can today point to a number of successes in laying the groundwork for a remarkable resurgence of democracy in Southeast Asia. Starting with the Philippines in the 1980s, the United States and Japan have established an impressive track record in supporting this region-wide trend towards democratization. In the 1990s, our joint efforts were crucial to establishing stability and liberal political institutions in Cambodia, and last year we supported actively Indonesia's historic emergence from authoritarianism. In the coming years, I am hopeful we can expand our efforts in Burma and other countries that still resist providing their citizens basic political and economic rights.

The U.S. and Japan need to be just as active in cooperating to further economic prosperity in the region. Our two nations were among the original co-architects of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group, an entity that has promoted freer trade and investment, supported greater economic integration within the region, and built strong personal ties among the leaders of a diverse region through annual summits. When the Asian financial crisis hit in 1997 we cooperated in providing assistance, working with private creditors, and setting up the Manila process which resulted in new government policies which will significantly improve our ability to mitigate the impact of economic downturns in the future.

As the two largest economies in the world, the U.S. and Japan bear a special responsibility for maintaining a strong global free trade regime. Our cooperation is vital to an early resumption of efforts to launch a new round of trade talks - and we are committed to doing so. We must also move forward energetically to make progress on those sectors on which there is already agreement to liberalize further: namely, services and agriculture. The U.S. and Japan must do all we can, by word and deed, to demonstrate the benefits of free trade and investment.

Finally, the U.S.-Japan security alliance has been and will continue to be a bulwark for security in the Asian region. Even as the U.S. supports the nurturing of regional institutions and dialogue, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the "Track II" process in Northeast Asia, we realize that Asia is different from Europe. Building any regional collective security mechanism will be a long-term effort. So we are taking steps to strengthen our security ties with Japan, such as the recently passed Defense Guidelines-related legislation, which offers a framework for a more pro-active Japanese role in support of our common interests in the region. We hope that greater transparency and an enhanced security dialogue can reduce the threat of a destabilizing arms race or tragic military miscalculation in our future Pacific Community. In the meantime, it is our bilateral security ties to Japan and our other allies in the region that remain the cornerstone of our mutual security.

Let me once again emphasize my disagreement with those who say that our alliance no longer serves a purpose in the post-Cold War environment. On the international stage in particular, our cooperation with Japan has been exemplary.

It is a testimony to the vitality of our shared values that Japan has pledged $235 million for Balkan reconstruction, $300 million for East Timor, and $220 million in support of the Middle East Peace Process. Moreover, Japan's Diet last year - at this time of slow growth and fiscal belt-tightening - also agreed to appropriate one billion dollars to fund the construction by KEDO of two Light Water Reactors in North Korea as part of the Agreed Framework.

In order to sustain our close and cooperative relationship deep into this new century, we must enhance and expand our consultative efforts. Too much of our attention goes to managing the crisis of the moment in the trade or security area and not enough to considering the role we must play together in shaping the future of a stable and prosperous Pacific Community with the U.S.-Japan relationship at its core. Given the range of our shared interests, there is a need to further increase our periodic sub-cabinet level exchanges on foreign policy, security, and economic issues to develop a broader vision for our partnership.

In this context, Japan has every reason to be pro-active and confident in advancing the values and interests we share in the region and around the world. And the U.S. has every reason to encourage Japan to fulfill its potential as a leader both in Asia and on the world stage. We believe in our partner and believe in its ability to contribute positively to the global community. I well understand the sensitivities that exist over Japan pursuing a more energetic political role in the Asian region. However, as an important democracy with strong institutions, Japan should not shy away from promoting the democratic experience with its neighbors. For example, in order facilitate the dissemination of Japan's political ideals through unofficial channels, Japan ought to consider perhaps establishing an organization with functions similar to those of our National Endowment for Democracy.

Let me conclude by saying that there is no country in the region which shares with the United States as many fundamental values and interests as does Japan. Japan is the only other country with the economic and political stature required to serve as a true partner to the United States on important regional and global concerns. There are many challenges facing us in the coming century - none more important than the task of building a Pacific Community based on respect for the diversity of culture and history that characterizes the people of this region. The U.S.-Japan alliance is the irreplaceable relationship that serves as both the example and the vehicle for our achieving this vision. I am confident that our partnership will remain as relevant as ever.