Ambassador Baker Speaks at LDP 50th Anniversary Forum

Ambassador Howard H. Baker, Jr.
LDP 50th Anniversary Lecture Series
Liberal Democratic Party Headquarters, Tokyo

January 24, 2005

AMBASSADOR BAKER: Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the friendship and enthusiasm which you've shown today. I will always be grateful.

My thanks particularly to former Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda, who not only has been my counterpart in government but also has become a good friend.

Someone asked if I remembered the first day I arrived in Japan and did I remember being summoned to the Foreign Ministry to talk about Okinawa? I assure you I did.

I was met at the side, at the door of the airplane of ANA, where I'd just arrived, by the DCM - by the Deputy Chief of Mission - who said, "Now we must have a press conference about Okinawa," and I said, "I don't know anything about Okinawa." DCM Christenson said, "Here, read this statement. Don't answer questions, and you'll be fine." I said, "The press in America would not permit me to do that. They would insist on going further." He said, "You're in Japan and not yet used up."

I had not yet presented my credentials to the Emperor, I had not yet been in Tokyo for 24 hours when I received a summons from the Foreign Minister. I went there and I believe every TV camera east of the Ural Mountains was there with the lights on and the cameras going.

Mrs. Tanaka had very stern things to say about America at that point and I listened patiently. When the TV cameras went away, Mrs. Tanaka, who I really count a friend, said, "I understand we have mutual friends in Philadelphia." That, my friends, was my introduction to Japan.

Seriously, my friends, what I'd like to do today is make some remarks about the relationship between Japan and the United States, and then to have a period for questions and answers. But before I do that, let me express my appreciation to the Liberal Democratic Party for offering me this opportunity to speak.

I congratulate the LDP on its 50th anniversary and I salute the long line of illustrious LDP prime ministers that you have provided.

The admiration for Japan and respect for the Japanese people that I felt when I first visited Tokyo in 1969 as a young senator have never lessened. Thirty-five years ago, I had the conviction that the partnership between us is fundamentally important to both of our nations and that we must all - Americans and Japanese - do everything we can to ensure its vitality and prosperity. My friends, that point of view endures until this day.

My friends, I marvel at the fact that the United States and Japan are so close, given that they are such different places. We are separated by a giant body of water. We have different heritages and different cultures. So, given these circumstances, I often wonder why have Japan and the United States grown to be such friends?

To be sure, there are many reasons, but I began by pointing out the friendship, the relationship that exists between President Bush in Washington and Prime Minister Koizumi in Tokyo. Both have shown great energy, decisiveness, and imagination in their mutual efforts to enhance the alliance between the United States and Japan.

This view may be unique to me, but I believe there's another reason why Japan and the United States are so close. That is because our two countries have the most efficient and effective participatory democracies in the world. The citizens of our two countries share a special talent for self-government. The fact that we became friends, let alone allies, in such a brief time since the end of that great Pacific conflict is, in my view, little short of a miracle.

I think it's appropriate, here in the headquarters of the LDP, to point out that I have a near reverent respect for the two-party system in America. I think it is a crucible for debate of important issues. I would not presume to tell Japan how to arrange its internal political configuration, but I do point out that the two-party system in America has served us very well. The debate of important public issues between our two parties sometimes leads to controversy. Controversy is a necessary predecessor of progress.

I almost never give advice in Japan, as U.S. Ambassador here. That is not my role. But forgive me if I have one word of advice in respect to politics.

Party competition, in my view, is the essence of government. Both Japan and the United States see heated public discussions and this part of our governing ethic may well serve us well. However, competition in the party system can be fierce. That is why the sense of competition needs to undergirded by a sense of responsibility and a decent respect for different points of view. Without a decent respect for different points of view, competition becomes antagonism, and antagonism becomes gridlock. And gridlock is followed by a loss of public faith in the governing system.

Let me move on to the importance of personal relationships. Some remark from time to time that personal relationships are no longer important. But, my friends, they are. Personal friendships are vital as our two countries attempt to address the issues of the day. The relationship between George Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi is a great facilitator of our common interests and our common defense. Such strong relationships can make even the most daunting mountains a pleasure to climb.

I'm grateful for Fukuda-san's remark about our friendship and our relationship. But without the friendship, the relationship would not have been as successful. So I salute Fukuda-san, not only for his friendship, but also for being a worthy adversary and a contender for the Japanese point of view. But in those conflicts, in those discussions, I believe we were more often that not agreed on a course of action that was good for both countries.

My friends, I see great opportunities and great challenges ahead. I believe that Japan is the trustee of security and stability in the Asia Pacific region. I will tell you frankly that the United States welcomes a Japan that is more engaged, that has a more prominent profile, and whose voice is heard more clearly. I know this responsibility is not always a welcome one, but I have confidence that the Japanese political system is fully capable of resolving the difficult issues that it faces.

For instance, Japan's impressive response to the recent tsunami disaster is an exercise in the discharge of Japan's responsibility as a great nation. My friends, I also wish to applaud you for your bold decision to deploy the Self-Defense Force to the region. The deployment of Japan's largest ever aid effort is equal in importance to your generous pledge of $500 million in assistance and is a clear signal to Japan's leadership in this part of the world.

I spoke of Japan being a trustee of liberty in the Pacific, and indeed it is. But there'll be many challenges to your leadership and to your ability to sustain peace and tranquility in the region.

I think particularly of the situation on the Korea Peninsula. As important as the North Korean challenge may be in terms of abductees, in terms of a growing military presence, including nuclear weapons, it is clear that Japan must focus its attention on these challenges.

But my friends, the real challenge for Japan, in my view, comes from how you arrange you relationship with China. China is growing in economic and political influence, but so is Japan. Japan and China have a mutual responsibility, I think, to find ways to work together productively.

But on this issue, as with many others, on the economic front Japan and the United States shoulder a heavy burden because, together, we represent almost 50 percent of the world's GDP. Japan is a leader in science and technology. America is a leader in science and technology, too. With new inventions, with new ideas, new concepts, with basic science, both American and Japan are great scientific nations.

Perhaps many people in Japan do not realize what a scientific nation Japan is, and will be in the future. As examples, Japan has the two largest telescopes in the world for astronomical purposes. While they happen to be in Hawaii, they are still Japanese telescopes, owned and operated by Japanese institutions.

In this age of computers, I believe it is appropriate to point out that Japanfs Earth Simulator is the largest vector computer in the world committed to analysis of data. How Japan capitalizes on its growing industrial strength and economic power will have a great impact on regional stability.

There are many reasons why the United States and Japan are at a high point in their relationship. One is that they are responding in tandem to the threats they face in common. But their increased partnership and strengthened alliance in the future will rest, I think, more on their shared outlook and their joint pursuit of common goals.

Extending democratic government, promoting human rights, bringing economic development to the rest of the world, employing technology to address the world's ills - these are the positive efforts that bond our two nations so clearly and will continue to bind us in the future.

My friends, let me turn to something less serious than the relationship between Japan and the United States, or Japanfs place as a world power - and you are indeed a world power - and that is my abiding interest in photography.

Japan is a wonderful subject for photography. The people, the landscape, the animals - Japan is very photogenic, and it has been my pleasure to travel about this great country and record my experiences and try to capture something of the spirit and soul of Japan.

Ifm doubly honored that the LDP, in this beginning of their lecture series, has invited me to exhibit pictures here. I am flattered. My friends, I am so attached to photography - and have been most of my life - but there are some who say, in an unkindly way, that "You are a pretty good photographer, but we believe you are an amateur diplomat."

I hope youfll take the time to look at the exhibit. I hope you enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed taking the pictures. It has been a great experience for me.

My friends, may I conclude by thanking the LDP for the invitation, especially at the kickoff of your distinguished lecture series, and also, my friends, for giving me this opportunity to express in personal terms my admiration for Japan and to acknowledge the many friendships that I have developed here in the last almost four years.

And as my wife and I prepare to leave Japan, and leave behind these friendships and these wonderful experiences, I come away with the conviction that the time of friendship and cooperation between the United States and Japan, the time of greatness between our two countries, is still before us and not behind us.

So to my friend [Mr.] Fukuda, and to others in government and out of government, I express my regret at leaving you behind, but I will never forget, and I hope that, as the occasion presents itself, that you will visit me and my wife in America.