Remarks Upon Arrival of the USS George Washington

(As prepared)

Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer
September 25, 2008
Yokosuka, Japan

Secretary Winter, Mayor Kabaya, Admiral Akahoshi, Mr. Nishimiya, Admiral Bird, Admiral Kelly, Major General Flock, Admiral Wren, Captain Haley, other distinguished visitors and guests, it is an honor to be here with you today.

When George Washington died a dear friend said he was, "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Now, the mighty warship that bears his name will be the first of its class to be forward-deployed to Japan. It is altogether fitting that a ship bearing the name of one of the greatest Americans who ever lived has been sent to protect one of the greatest relationships America has ever had.

The United States has no better friend in the world than Japan. The United States has no more important alliance in the world than the U.S.-Japan alliance. And as of today, the forces of freedom in the Pacific will have no more powerful ship to defend their interests than the U.S.S. George Washington right here in Yokosuka. What an historic moment this is.

More than sixty years ago a long and bitter struggle came to a close. Each of us had suffered devastating losses. Both of us wondered if we would ever be friends again. Neither of us could have imagined the event we witness today- the forward deployment of an American nuclear powered aircraft carrier not to subjugate Japan, but to defend Japan. This ship, as former Prime Minister Koizumi said when its coming was first announced, will enhance the security of Japan. It will also enhance the security of the American people. That is as it should be. Over the last sixty years we have come to understand that the security of each of us is tied one to the other. Neither of us can feel safe if either of us feels threatened.

As we go forward each of us will bear a heavy responsibility to build on the trust and confidence that has brought us to this remarkable day. We must always be ready to defend the benefits of our alliance to our own citizens. Neither of us should take for granted what the other does for our alliance. Neither should we forget that ours is not an alliance of convenience, but it is an alliance of purpose, and that purpose is to protect the way of life that we have come to enjoy and the values we have come to share.

For our part, America is proud to say that we will do everything within our power to ensure that the U.S.S. George Washington operates safely and securely in the waters of Japan and the world. The safety record of the American nuclear powered fleet is unblemished and we mean to keep it that way.

Let me also say that we will always be cognizant of the fact that we are guests in Japan. For decades thousands upon thousands of American service men and women have been treated with dignity and respect as they have gone about the task of defending Japan. We appreciate that and we pledge to you that we will always want Japanese citizens to welcome our presence. We are good friends who are trying to do good things together to benefit the good cause we both support.

Finally, let me say one last thing. Days like this do not come about by chance. They are the result of hard work, patience and vision. Scores of men and women in both America and Japan deserve to be thanked for what they did to bring this day about, but two should receive special recognition.

Mayor Kabaya, you understood that change can be troubling. You asked the tough questions, did the due diligence and worked tirelessly to see that the citizens of your city would always be protected. Both Japan and America are the better for it. Thank you for your steadfast friendship and understanding.

Admiral Kelly, no officer of the United States Navy has ever done a finer job of representing our country to a foreign government. Throughout this entire process, you have been a pillar of integrity. Japanese and Americans alike came to depend on your word. Without your leadership and vision, I do not believe we would be standing here today. Your country is proud of what you have done and this alliance owes you a debt of gratitude.

And now to the crew of the U.S.S. George Washington. Welcome to Yokosuka, and welcome to Japan. You will be serving in a wonderful city and a wonderful country. I hope when you return home you will have many fond memories of your service here.

Without your presence this part of the world would be a much more dangerous place. I know it is sometimes difficult to be so far away from family and friends, but what you will be doing here is important. On behalf of the President of the United States of America and a grateful nation, I thank you for your service. May it always be recognized and appreciated.