Ambassador Schieffer Addresses U.S.-Japan Parliamentary Friendship League

Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer
January 26, 2006

Thank you very much for having me here today. It is a great honor. The United States-Japan Parliamentary Friendship League is an important contributor to the welfare of our alliance. The friendship between our two countries is unique in the world. Borne out of conflict, it has come to epitomize the power of freedom to transform bitter enemies into close, prosperous and powerful friends. Sixty years ago few would have thought that the United States and Japan could enjoy the kind of relationship that we have today. It has come to be because both our societies share the same core values of freedom. Values that give dignity and respect to the individual and hope and opportunity to the masses. Friendship is never appreciated more than in a time of tragedy.

Last summer in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Japan came through for America. At the government, corporate and individual level, Japanese reacted with extraordinary generosity to the plight of ordinary Americans caught up in the disaster. From the collection boxes on the streets, to a Japanese businessman walking into my office and donating $1 million, the Japanese people time and again said that they wanted to help Americans. It was especially noteworthy that every member of the Diet - every one - made a donation to the relief efforts. Nothing like that has happened before. May I take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you and all the Japanese people for the compassion you showed. It is very, very much appreciated.

Let me turn now to the alliance that has grown out of our friendship.

Never has it been stronger. It is emblematic of the close and personal friendship shared by our two leaders, President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi. Sons of fathers who fought on opposite sides in the war, these two world leaders know that the fate of each of us is inexorably tied to the success of the relationship we have forged over the last sixty years. Their summit last November demonstrated once again that we are committed to a growing and evolving alliance that will serve the individual and mutual interests of each of our great countries.

Even as we enjoy the friendship and benefits of that alliance, we both recognize that problems can present themselves even to the closest of friends. Such a problem occurred last week when a shipment of United States beef failed to comply with the new regulations established at the resumption of beef trade between our two countries. Let me take this opportunity to apologize sincerely to the Japanese people and government for this unfortunate mistake. Let me also add that we will do everything possible to ensure that this mistake does not happen again. When America gives its word to the Japanese people they can rest assured that it means something. This was an important agreement - two long years in the making - and we intend to see that it is kept. We are embarrassed and appalled that the regulations were not followed in this case. We have launched an immediate investigation so that we can truthfully and fully answer the question of how this happened. We have already taken steps that hopefully will help:

  • The plant that exported the product has been de-listed and will no longer be allowed to export beef to Japan. Action will be taken against any employee or inspector who failed to do their duty in the inspection process.

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors have been dispatched to every plant to review procedures and ensure compliance on every beef export to Japan. USDA inspectors themselves will be required to undergo additional training to be sure that they are knowledgeable in all the specifics of the agreement between our two governments.

And let me also assure you that there is one group of Americans that are every bit as upset over this turn of events as any Japanese. The American beef producers are furious that this lapse in compliance procedures has again caused an interruption in our beef trade. They will continue to demand that our Agriculture Department comply with all aspects of our international agreements so that they can sell their product to the markets of the world. Failure to do so will cost them billions of dollars a year.

The friendship and alliance between our two countries involves much more than just beef. For America, it is the linchpin of our whole foreign policy in Asia. The American Japanese alliance has provided for the security of both our countries in the Pacific. That security in turn has allowed our economies to prosper without suffering again from the devastation of war.

One of the great challenges of our time will be adjusting to the world order that has emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the events of September 11th. Russia is adjusting to the fact that it has less power and fewer resources than it enjoyed when it was a part of the old Soviet Union. China and India, on the other hand, are adjusting to the fact that their prominence on the world stage has increased as a result of the impressive growth that has occurred in their economies. Against this changing world order is the backdrop of terrorism. We all have come to realize that whether we are Russian, Chinese, Indian, American, or Japanese, terrorists strike at the heart of civilized societies. If terrorists are allowed to kill innocents at their whim, then civilization as we know it may cease to exist. Terrorism is the bane of our time. The more we do together, the better our chances of defeating it.

And yet our friendship and alliance extend far beyond security matters. Together we are a formidable force for good in the world. Our two economies are far and away the largest. We produce more, earn more, and give away more than any two nations in history. But we are not just about money. We have responded to tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and disease with a compassion that relieves suffering and offers hope for a better day. So too, do we support the institutions that bring democracy and freedom to the oppressed. Tyranny knows it has a formidable foe in the alliance of the United States and Japan.

In the realm of security, the burdens that each of us bear are not easy. But the fact that we are willing to bear those burdens is essential to the cause of peace and stability in the world. Think what Asia would look like if the United States had no presence here in Japan. I believe the entire region and indeed the world would be a much more dangerous place, prone to conflict and instability. We are here and you allow us to be here because each of us wants security for our people.

Let me also add that we must be good neighbors in the communities where we live. The United States remains committed to a goal of zero tolerance for criminal acts performed by American service personnel. We are deeply saddened by events like the murder of an innocent woman in Yokosuka and pledge to you that we will cooperate in every way possible to bring any wrongdoer to justice. We are not here to prey on the innocent; we are here to protect the innocent.

Finally, I want to look to the future of the Japanese American friendship and alliance. We want this friendship and this alliance to reflect the best that is in the soul of both of our peoples.

There is much that needs to be done in the world. Poverty and disease are still with us. War and pestilence still visit too many places. Together we have built the two greatest economies in the world. Together we have secured the peace of Asia. And together we look to the future with hope.

The world is a very different place than it was sixty years ago. And it is a much better place - more democratic, more prosperous and more free than ever before. That did not just happen. It happened because men and women of courage and vision made it happen. Our task is to live up to their courage and their vision. If we do so, I am confident that an American ambassador sixty years from now will address a group of Diet members and extol the virtues of our friendship and emphasize the contributions that that friendship has made to a better world.

Domo arigato gozaimasu.