The Multiple Dimensions of the U.S.-Japan Relationship

December 4, 2009

Ambassador John V. Roos
Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) Event
Imperial Hotel, Tokyo

Ambassador Yoshiji Nogami, JIIA President and event moderator, introduced Ambassador Roos.

Thank you very much Mr. Ambassador, for that warm welcome, as well as to the JIIA for sponsoring this event here today. And I first wanted to say how appreciative I am that all of you took the time out of your day to be here. As the Ambassador said, since August 20, I have had the honor and privilege of serving as the 15th postwar Ambassador to this great nation of Japan. I have been truly humbled by the opportunity and the responsibility that President Obama asked me to take on, following in a line of truly great statesmen in this position.

As many of you know, I came from a different background - for 25 years I was in law and business in the Silicon Valley, running the largest technology law firm in the United States, as well as working with some of the great companies of my generation. I came with a fresh perspective but with an appreciation of the goals and challenges that our new President wanted to take on in this new century.

When I came to Japan, I was determined to use the first few months listening and learning from leaders in government, business, non-governmental organizations, and other walks of life in Japan. In fact, I've met with many of you in this audience. With the historic political change in Japan that took place only two weeks after my arrival, I appreciated that I was perhaps in a unique position to gain an understanding of a new generation of Japanese leaders that would influence my country's relationship with Japan for decades to come. I also made it a point to travel throughout Japan to gain a better understanding of this amazing country and its people. My family and I have not only thoroughly enjoyed Tokyo and the surrounding area, but we have travelled to Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Okinawa and later this month we look forward to going to Hokkaido. I have visited many of the United States' military bases, including Yokota, Misawa, Iwakuni, Yokosuka, Zama, Futenma, Camp Schwab, Kadena, and Atsugi. I did that to gain a better understanding of the U.S.-Japan alliance. In short, it has been a busy, but an incredibly enriching, first few months.

Today, I would like to share with you my initial thoughts particularly regarding the opportunities to broaden and deepen the relationship between our two countries in this 21st century.

It goes without saying that it is remarkable that two countries that fought a bitter war that ended only 65 years ago have become such close allies, friends, and partners. Our shared values have enabled us to work together to bring stability and prosperity to our peoples during the last half of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. In doing so, our societies and citizens have become interconnected in countless ways.

Japan-U.S. relations, of course, are fundamentally rooted in our security relationship. Our alliance, which is unique in the world, has ensured the defense of Japan and provided peace and stability in a region that has seen tumultuous changes over the past half-century. In addition, the stability of our alliance has provided the foundation on which Japan and its neighbors have built economic success and a better quality of life.

Our alliance has endured, as President Obama recently said in Tokyo at Suntory Hall in the defining speech of his Asia trip, "because it reflects our common values – a belief in the democratic right of free people to choose their own leaders and realize their own dreams;" a belief that made possible the election of both Prime Minister Hatoyama and President Obama on the promise of change. Our nations' joint declaration just 50 years ago said that we were creating "an indestructible partnership" based on "equality and mutual understanding." And our alliance has worked. There has never been better collaboration or sharing of information between our militaries than currently exists today, and fundamentally, and this is important, it has continued to be the cornerstone for peace and security in this region of the world.

But our relationship goes much deeper than our military alliance.

From the beginning of our modern relationship, Americans and Japanese have both held a certain fascination with the culture of the other. Perhaps that is due to the great distance that separates us geographically. In the short time that we have been here, my family has fallen prey to that fascination. We have enjoyed visiting historic shrines throughout Japan, seeing the unique arts and crafts in the shops of Kyoto, enjoying the simplicity and beauty of a tea ceremony here in Tokyo, or just simply struggling with our Japanese lessons. At the same time, walking around Ginza, we cannot help but see the influence from the United States on Japanese young and old carrying around iPhones and other American products. We have also seen the influence of U.S. architecture and design in collaboration with Japanese firms in the impressive Roppongi Hills and Tokyo Midtown developments in the area of Tokyo that's near to where we live.

I have been impressed by how the educational exchanges between our two countries have helped to build our deep relationship. Fulbright Japan has brought over 2,400 Americans to this country to teach and conduct research and sent nearly 6,200 Japanese students and scholars to the United States. There is also the Japan Exchange and Teaching, or JET Program, and many other exchange programs that have been key to developing understanding between our two great countries. It is not insignificant to Japan's relationship with the United States that Prime Minister Hatoyama received his PhD in the United States at my alma mater, Stanford University. A few weeks ago, my wife and I hosted a Big Game party at our residence (for those of you who don't know, the "Big Game" is the annual football game, rivalry, between the University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford). And at that party, we met Japanese graduates of both universities who are involved in so many walks of life both here and in the United States, and where the positive impact those former students have had on both of our two countries is palpable.

We met at Nagoya University with a group of students who had studied in the United States and were incredibly impressed by their level of sophistication and knowledge of my country U.S. students we have met studying here in Japan have been equally impressive.

Our economic and scientific relationships have also added to the underlying strength of the bond between our two countries.

On the economic front, numbers alone don't do this relationship justice but they are indeed impressive. Japan is America's second largest trading partner outside of North America - we conduct over 550 million dollars in two-way trade in goods and services each day. The depth of our economic partnership stands out in the way our citizens and companies desire the high-quality brand products that we each produce. It is apparent in the success of those companies that have invested in each country over the years. Honda, Toyota, Canon and Sony, just to name a few, are almost considered American brands because they have been in our market so long, and enjoy such fine reputations and because of the number of jobs they have created in the United States. They command unrivaled worker loyalty at their plants throughout the United States. The same is true in Japan, where Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Starbucks and IBM are now regarded as very Japanese.

Our scientific cooperation stretches from below the ocean floor all the way to outer space. We work closely with Japan in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, headquartered in Washington but jointly supported by both our countries to serve the international community of scientists participating in that project. The research explores the earth's history and structure by probing sediments on the seafloor. Above the earth, NASA and JAXA are among the primary partners in developing the International Space Station. We are also partners in seven different Earth observation missions. Through this joint scientific work, we can better understand the human effects on the speed of environmental change and take responsible policy actions, especially in the area of climate change.

The cooperation between our countries in the health sciences is broad and deep, on the cutting edge of science. We actively share information on pandemic flu, and through multilateral institutions like the World Health Organization, coordinate on combating flu at home and in developing countries that need assistance, improving the lives of people around the world. Our countries have longstanding agreements to collaborate in cancer research as well. Recently, one United States-Japan research team produced a breakthrough in treating cervical cancer. Currently, efforts are underway to expand U.S.-Japan collaboration in cancer clinical trials.

While our relationship is deep and broad, the world is not static and like all relationships, the U.S.-Japan relationship must evolve and cannot be taken for granted. But one thing I learned in my years in the Silicon Valley is that change is not only inevitable but it can be unbelievably exciting, and if people and countries work together, it can lead to a stronger and more enriching future.

The 21st century may very well be the Asia Pacific century. And as President Obama has said, "our efforts in Asia Pacific will be rooted, in no small measure through an enduring and revitalized alliance between the United States and Japan."

As Ambassador, one of my key responsibilities is to strengthen our alliance with Japan and to help ensure it responds to the evolving security environment of the 21st century. I would argue that our alliance in the next 50 years will be even more important than it has been for the last 50 years. It must be one based on equality and national interest, one of shared risks, burdens, and responsibilities. We have to engage in an ongoing dialogue about what that alliance means, as we provide for the defense of Japan and the maintenance of regional security, including the risks posed by North Korea's rogue regime and with the changes brought about by the rise of China as a great power. Next year's 50th anniversary of our alliance is a perfect opportunity to not only celebrate our past 50 years but to begin to define the next 50. This will take serious work. It will also require that we resolve the current issues we are now working through expeditiously.

In addition to the regional issues, our alliance will need to continue to expand to respond to global challenges such as nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, climate change, fighting terrorism, pandemic disease and restoring growth to the global economy. The challenges and opportunities of the 21st century are different from those of the last. They are global in scope and of such complexity that no one society can meet them alone. Every nation has a piece of the action and every nation shares responsibility for the results. As President Obama said, we are standing at a transformational moment in world history when our interconnected world presents us at once with great promise, but also with great peril. The array of daunting challenges the world confronts now that respect no borders - require our collective attention and action.

I believe that the United States and Japan have the opportunity to work hand in hand to be true leaders in this new global world. Take two of President Obama's top priorities - climate change and nuclear proliferation.

In the area of climate change, the United States and Japan are two of the most innovative, if not the two most innovative, countries in the world. Together, we filed over 50% of the world's 163,600 international patent applications just last year. Together, we accounted for over 42% of the global R & D spending. As the President said last month, "Innovation in energy technology will decrease our oil use, strengthen our economy and reduce the dangerous pollution that causes climate change." Now more than ever the link among energy policy, economic development, environmental sustainability and national security is clear for both our countries.

And perhaps nowhere is the power of the U.S.-Japan cooperation more promising than on renewable energy. The United States and Japan can work together to develop game-changing solutions in the way we produce and consume energy. I am convinced that after meeting with senior Japanese government and business leaders, including Prime Minister Hatoyama and Environmental Minister Ozawa, and from visiting some innovative new energy demonstration projects here in Tokyo, in Osaka and Nagoya, that Japan's energy policy stakeholders share this view. As the Ambassador to Japan, I intend to work with the highest levels of our two governments, as well as the leaders in the private sector to facilitate our efforts in this area. And I also look forward to helping to unleash a new generation of entrepreneurs here in Japan to help address this issue. It's just too important not to have all of our best resources at work as one of our highest priorities.

Earlier this year, in Prague, President Obama captured the imagination of the world and of countless Japanese, when he spoke of the United States' commitment to seek the peace and security in a world without nuclear weapons. A few months ago, my family and I traveled to Hiroshima, laid a wreath at the Peace Memorial and placed an origami crane at the foot of the Children's Peace Monument in Peace Memorial Park. Since then, everywhere I have gone, I have met Japanese citizens who have come up to me and commented on that visit. As President Obama said, the goal of a non-nuclear world will not be realized quickly - perhaps not in our lifetime. It will require persistence and patience. And while this issue, like climate change, is a global issue, as the only nation to have dropped the atomic bomb and the only nation to have suffered the effects of one, our two countries hold special positions in that debate.

The United States and Japan also have much to share with the developing world - not just financial assistance, but ideas, technology, innovation and expertise. If we work together to share our knowledge and experience on global issues that matter deeply to our two countries, I have no doubt that together, we can have a much greater impact. Under our joint action plan on global health assistance, Japan and the United States have cooperated on health projects around the world, in countries from Bolivia to Bangladesh, from Nigeria to Nepal. We should build on this history of working together and extend our partnership to meet other critical developmental challenges, such as our shared renewed commitment to combat global hunger and promote greater food security, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The underlying strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship lies in the strength of our cultural, educational, scientific and business relationships. Like everything else in life, those need to be nurtured, and there are some warning signs. The fact that fewer Japanese students are choosing to study in the United States, for example, is a trend we must reverse. In the business world, foreign direct investment from the United States into Japan is not even close to where it should be. We cannot lose sight that we must create policies, programs and opportunities in both the private and public sector to reinvigorate some of these things that make our relationship strong and unique.

This is the model of the Japan-U.S. relationship upon which I believe we can build. We each bring our own cultural, historical, and social perspectives to bear on the global challenges of the 21st century. My background in the Silicon Valley has taught me that diversity is a strength, multiple perspectives can be melded into creative force that propels us on to discover new ways to solve problems. I believe that the United States and Japan are poised for a new era of leadership, combining the experience and technological knowhow to achieve great things, despite our many differences.

I would like to end by quoting the President of the United States, again from his recent speech at Suntory Hall. The President said:

"The story of how these ties between the United States and Japan were forged dates back to the middle of the last century, sometime after the guns of war had quieted in the Pacific. It was then that America's commitment to the security and stability of Japan, along with the Japanese peoples' spirit of resilience and industriousness, led to what's been called "the Japanese miracle" – a period of economic growth that was faster and more robust than anything the world had seen for some time.

He went on to say:

"In the coming years and decades, this miracle would spread throughout the region, and in a single generation the lives and fortunes of millions were forever changed for the better. It is progress that has been supported by a hard-earned peace, and strengthened by new bridges of mutual understanding that have bound together the nations of this vast and sprawling space.

"But we know that there's still work to be done – so that new breakthroughs in science and technology can lead to jobs on both sides of the Pacific, and security from a warming planet; so that we can reverse the spread of deadly weapons ... and so that young people everywhere can go as far as their talent and their drive and their choices will take them.

None of this will come easy, nor without setback or struggle. But at this moment of renewal – in this land of miracles – history tells us it is possible. This is America's agenda. This is the purpose of our partnership with Japan, and with the nations and peoples of this region. And there must be no doubt: As America's first Pacific President, I promise you that this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world."

These were President Obama's words a few weeks ago. I personally am honored to be in Japan at this critical juncture of our nations' history and world history to help to achieve the President's vision hand in hand with you and the other people of Japan. Nothing could be more exciting or gratifying than to be contributing, if only in a small way, to the challenges and opportunities we face together in the 21st century.

Arigatou gozaimasu.

MODERATOR: Well, thank you, Mr. Ambassador. The Ambassador was kind enough to receive a few questions. If there are any questions or comments, please raise your hand and please identify your name and affiliation. Kubo sensei.

QUESTION: My name is Fumiaki Kubo at the University of Tokyo and thank you very much Ambassador Roos for your excellent speech. I especially liked that you stressed the multilayered and multifaceted relationship between our countries. But I was wondering listening to your speech whether the implications of your speech was, at least one of which was, that we could keep fighting on Futenma even into next year, rest assured that our relationship is stable and mature, and don't worry about that. So, am I right or wrong? How serious do you think the current dispute over Futenma is in your view? And the next one is about the 50th anniversary that you mentioned. On core security issues, I think our relationship is multifaceted but still the core - the security issue is the core. Have you heard from our government any concrete proposals that directly related to core security issues that are positive and constructive? The prime minister and foreign minister tend talk more on reviewing of host nation support or the reviewing of the Status of Forces Agreement, which are probably not very attractive to your side. Thank you very much.

AMBASSADOR ROOS: Well, thank you for your question. First of all, I've had many, many discussions with the senior government leaders in Japan - the prime minister, the foreign minister, the defense minister, and others. I have no doubt that Japan is absolutely committed to the alliance between the United States and Japan. It's been emphasized and reemphasized many, many times that the Japan-U.S. relationship, as both our leaders have said, is the cornerstone of peace and security in this region of the world. I also have a great deal of confidence that between us during this next year, we will not only celebrate the 50th anniversary but we will continue to grow the alliance in many different respects. I think during this next year that a lot of the dialogue that will be taking place. I do think it's important that, as the President and the prime minister talked about, that we resolve the current issues expeditiously, and we are having a working group session this afternoon and it is the United States' full hope and expectation that we will continue to work together to a resolution because I do believe that next year it will be critically important to focus on some of the broader alliance issues that we need to focus on for the next 50 years.

QUESTION: My name is Naoyuki Agawa with Keio University. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador for your speech. I have two questions related to Professor Kubo's question. You said that the alliance is vital, that the alliance will last for the next 50 years sound and strong, but at the same time it cannot be taken for granted. Given that, how would you see the alliance, let's say, 10 years from now, 15 years from now. What concrete actions should the two countries take to further strengthen the alliance? That's number one question. Number two question - which side won the game between Stanford and California?

AMBASSADOR ROOS: Based on your second question where you probably know that Cal won the game, I shouldn't answer your first question. I think that, from the United States' perspective, we have gone through a process and we're continuing to go through a process in the realignment roadmap that the two countries agreed to and that Japan currently, the new government, is working the process with regard to that, involves realignment of forces to further strengthen the alliance as well as reduce the burden on the Okinawan people for the bases down there really is designed as a roadmap to strengthen the alliance 10, 20, 30 years from now. I think obviously we will continue to tweak and work on things with regard to our two militaries and as the world evolves and as I said, the world is not static so we have to continue to work together to communicate to strengthen that alliance. But I think the roadmap is an important beginning to that. The second point I just want to reemphasize that I spoke about is that I think we need to continue to broaden the perspective of what the alliance does and without repeating some of the things I said in my speech, I think that, given that we're the two biggest economies in the world, as I said the two most innovative countries in the world, there's just a huge opportunity to face a whole array of global issues under the rubric of the alliance.

QUESTION: Aiko Doden from NHK. My first question: agreements are binding and given your background as a lawyer you must be sensitive to the weight that such agreements carry. The Prime Minister decided to postpone the decision to relocate the Futenma Air Station by the end of the year 2009 in spite of such an agreement out of concern that such a decision may undermine the integrity of the coalition. Would you say such a decision may risk undermining the existing U.S.-Japan alliance. What is the reaction in Washington? Disappointed, disheartened, bemused, or frustrated, understanding?

AMBASSADOR ROOS: Is that NHK's reaction? Well, given that you interviewed me for the entrepreneurship forum that we recently held, I thought you were going to ask a question on entrepreneurship. But I don't want to prejudge. I've read today's newspapers. We have a working group session this afternoon in a couple of hours and I think that we will continue our discussions at that time and I really don't want to prejudge that working group session. I want to respect the privacy of the session that we agreed to.

QUESTION: My name is Makihara of Mitsubishi Corporation. I first of all wish to thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for your very constructive and also frank presentation. Within fora such as the U.S.-Japan Business Council and within the business circles, there's been increasing discussion about the possibility of a U.S.-Japan EPA, economic partnership agreement. I, for one, have thought for a long time that an EPA won't be materialized in a day or so. It will probably take a decade. But nevertheless, starting of discussions to achieve an EPA would be a constructive one. We would have to have constructive solutions, too - constructive of real problems. I wondered what your thoughts were on such a possibility.

AMBASSADOR ROOS: Well, first of all, and I appreciate the question, I come from a background where the Silicon Valley thrived on free trade and no barriers and there was a point in time as you know where there was a lot of tension between the United States and Japan in the trade area and the semiconductor area. Fortunately those days are behind us. It is my personal view that free trade is to the huge benefit of the global economy and that all of our countries, both our countries, and virtually all countries have benefited significantly from it. So the sooner we can overcome the barriers, and I understand that there are some barriers here in Japan that we need to overcome to have free and open trade, but my personal view is as soon as we can get to the point of free and open trade in Japan and the United States and the rest of the world, we will be better off. I believe that if we can accelerate that process, that will be to our benefit.

MODERATOR: As the Ambassador stated, he has to go from here to this very important meeting of the working group and in spite of his extremely busy schedule and extremely heavy responsibility, we really appreciate your speech and also we really appreciate your very candid answers to those questions. Once again I would like to thank Ambassador John Roos.

AMBASSADOR ROOS: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.