Ambassador Baker's Farewell Message

Ambassador Howard H. Baker, Jr.
February 17, 2005

The Japanese version of this article appeared in the February 18 Sankei Shimbun on page 2.

As my tenure as Ambassador to Japan comes to a close, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the readers of the Sankei Shimbun and to the people of Japan for your warm hospitality over these past four years.

I first visited Japan as a young senator in 1969, and since then, my admiration for this country and its people has only increased. I believed then that a strong partnership between the US and Japan would be essential to the vitality of our two nations, and in the years that followed, our friendship deepened and our countries prospered. Today, the US-Japan relationship is indeed fundamentally important to Asia-Pacific stability, and our level of understanding and cooperation is better than ever.

As a diplomat, Ifve had many opportunities to meet the Japanese people, and as a photographer, I have tried to capture the beauty of the Japanese landscape. In my travels, I am often struck by how friendly we have become, despite our different cultures. There is an important explanation for why we have become so close. Our two countries have the most effective participatory democracies in the world. Our citizens hold a special talent for self-government. And finally, we share a sensitivity that has allowed us to become not only friends, but allies in a remarkably short period of time.

As I leave, let me assure you that this understanding exists on a personal level even among our leaders. President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi share a connection that helps set the tone for our entire bilateral relationship. In addition, the constant high-level contacts between our countries reflect the health and importance of our ties. The President and Prime Minister met three times this past year, and other high-level US officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, have also recently visited Japan. I suspect that we will work even more closely in the years to come.

As I return home to Tennessee, Japan will continue to hold a special place in my heart, and I will watch with interest where your future leads. I look forward to seeing a Japan that serves as the trustee of security and stability in this region, and I look forward to seeing a Japan that becomes even more engaged abroad, with a voice that is heard ever more clearly in the world community. I depart this wonderful land with the knowledge that our relationship today is stronger than ever, and I am proud to have been able to contribute to that bond.