J.Thomas Schieffer: Reflecting on the Bush-Koizumi summit

The Asahi Shimbun
November 22, 2005

When I think of the summit that has just been concluded between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and President George W. Bush, friendship is the one word that comes to mind.

Prime Minister Koizumi and President Bush always acknowledge their personal friendship when they meet.

There is no pretense or posturing between them, whether in private or in front of the media. They look at each other with confidence and warmth, and speak to each other with understanding and candor.

The personal relationship between the president and the prime minister deepens the national friendship that has developed between our two peoples over the past 60 years. It allows us both to quickly and efficiently take stock of where our two nations stand on bilateral, regional and global issues.

I think it is instructive that Prime Minister Koizumi noted to the media gathered at the Geihinkan in Kyoto that "there is no such thing as a U.S.-Japan relationship that is too close."

He also noted that the United States is "the most indispensable ally to Japan."

President Bush echoed those feelings when he noted during his joint appearance with the prime minister that the United States and Japan have a "vital" and "very strong" relationship, but he made his views even clearer in his speech later in the day at the Kyoto Kaikan, when he said that Japan should be looked at as an example of democracy to others.

Both leaders made a point of acknowledging during their joint meeting with the media that continuing our close collaboration in a variety of fields is the key to continuing peace, prosperity and the growth of democracy and freedom in this region and in the world.

This summit was about reaffirming our relationship--our friendship--but it was also a forward-looking summit. Certainly, President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi could be confident that Japan and the United States are both responding to the challenges and opportunities of the post-9/11 world.

Both leaders affirmed our commitment to help Afghanistan and Iraq move toward stability and democracy. They also expressed their determination to get results from the six-party talks on North Korea. They made it clear that we are going forward together to deal with potential problems such as a possible spread of bird flu to humans.

We are committed to continuing the Doha Round of WTO negotiations because the continuing health of the world economy is fundamentally important to our two nations and to the rest of the world.

Naturally, President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi focused a lot on regional issues, since this summit took place on the eve of the APEC meeting in South Korea.

At the same time, President Bush made a point of delivering the keynote speech of his four-nation tour of Asia in Kyoto, to underscore the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship to this region.

As he noted in the speech, the alliance between Japan and the United States is based on shared values, shared interests and a shared commitment to freedom. In that vein, I was struck by Prime Minister Koizumi's response to a question from the Japanese media asking what President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi had discussed regarding the transformation of U.S. forces in Japan.

He said that he understood the negative reaction of some Japanese to having a U.S. military base nearby, but noted that the reason why those U.S. forces are in Japan is to provide for the security of Japan, which, in turn, allows for an environment of peace and security in which the economy can grow.

In his words, "in order to be able to benefit from safety and peace, we have to pay a certain cost." In the United States, we like to say, "freedom is not free," meaning that we have to understand that there are financial, material and human costs to the maintenance of freedom.

As I listened to their conversations about these and a great many other issues, I thought to myself that both leaders should be proud of the fact that Japan and the United States are doing the right thing.

We are standing on the side of the fundamental aspirations of people everywhere to live in peace and freedom and to have opportunities to prosper.

In my view, both Prime Minister Koizumi and President Bush wanted their recent summit to be an affirmation of their belief that the Japan-U.S. relationship benefits both nations, benefits the region and benefits the world because we are working together for peace, freedom and prosperity.

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(IHT/Asahi: November 22,2005)