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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a Symposium hosted by Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA

April 29, 2015

[Provisional Translation]

Chairman Yohei Sasakawa is a long-time friend of mine, and someone I admire. He invited a great leader, Admiral Dennis Blair, to head the Sasakawa Peace Foundation U.S.A. Since then SPFUSA has been engaged in highly commendable work, for which I would like to pay tribute. I also wish to express to all of you my heartfelt gratitude for having invited me here today.

This morning I had the honor of addressing a joint meeting of Congress as the first Japanese Prime Minister ever to do so. The essence of my remarks there is that a strong Japan is in the interest of the U.S., and a strong U.S.-Japan alliance is in the interest of the region and the world, full stop.

A strong Japan should be founded on an economy that grows steadily. It starts with a new generation of Japanese gaining confidence about themselves and their future, and about their own country and its future. My foreign and security policies are inseparable from my Abenomics, like two sides of the same coin.

Japan is under severe budgetary constraints and unable to increase its defense budget dramatically. Still, we can make further efforts to have the U.S.-Japan alliance function better. The bottom line is that unless you have the will and the capabilities to defend your own country, you can’t fortify the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Our efforts will complement the rebalancing now being pursued by the U.S. And those efforts, with the U.S. and Japan joining forces, should lead the region, from the Asia-Pacific to the Indian Ocean, to more enduring peace and stability. That's what I hope for.

The security environment that surrounding us only gets more and more challenging. The frequency with which the Japan Air Self-Defense Force is scrambling aircraft in our southwest skies is on the rise day by day. And night and day, in turbulent waters, the Japan Coast Guard is going all out to defend our territorial waters. What is taking place in the South China Sea should go without saying. What you see in the region today is a picture entirely different from what you saw there even a decade ago.

We are determined to have new legislative bills for our security passed by the Diet by this coming summer. Once these new bills are in place we will be able to respond in a seamless way to all levels of possible security events, from both normal circumstances and “gray zone” situations to those requiring emergency responses

Suppose for instance two Aegis-type destroyers from Japan and the U.S. are in a joint operation on the high seas near Japan on guard against possible incoming ballistic missiles, and that the U.S. ship suffers an attack. Until now, Japan's Aegis-type vessel could not help the U.S. destroyer. We will finally be able to do just that once these new bills enter into force.

Take another example from our international peace keeping activities. Suppose a unit from some other country that is working side by side with Japan is suddenly attacked. Until now, it was impossible for Japan Self-Defense Forces personnel to rush to that unit’s rescue. We will now also be able to do that, with these bills in place.

On the one hand, you have these kinds of changes going on in Japan, while on the other, you have rebalancing underway in the U.S. In combination, these two circumstances have brought our new security guidelines into being. Our “Two Plus Two” ministerial consultations the day before yesterday sealed our bilateral agreement, which was truly historic in nature.

What is the significance of the U.S.-Japan alliance? This alliance, which brought us to victory in the Cold War, has a great deal of flexibility in adapting to new security environments, because it is underpinned by values and because it takes as its foundation the unshakeable values shared by Japan and the U.S.

It is also because our alliance is grounded in mutual trust. The U.S. servicemen and women who rushed to the rescue of Japan after the devastating disaster did so, in my view, not merely because they were under orders to do so. They simply could not stand idly by when someone else needed help. The overflowing compassion that is so quintessentially American naturally led them to do so. You cannot imagine how much this helped give hope to the hopeless people lost in their grief.

In order for us not to forget the kindness we received from you, and also for us to strengthen the “kizuna,” or bonds of friendship, we have with the U.S. military still further, we are launching in cooperation with SPFUSA a project to network people who have worked in the U.S. Forces in Japan. We will then keep up our efforts to strengthen that network.

Across the U.S., current and former servicemen and women and their family members who spent time in the U.S. Forces in Japan are playing important roles in various ways. Connecting them in a broad network will enable them to recall from time to time their days in Japan, and possibly, they will also serve as a strong basis in support of the U.S.-Japan relationship.

In my address to Congress earlier today, I mentioned the Carol King song You've Got a Friend, a tune I have been fond of ever since my high school days. I referenced that song to say that the U.S.-Japan alliance should be an alliance of hope going forward.

This alliance of hope is an alliance that gives assurance to the world. And this alliance of hope is one that willingly works to safeguard international public goods. It is, I should repeat, an alliance working to advance democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law, and other values we hold in common.

Admiral Blair, Dan Bob, Kazuyo Kato, and all of you involved in SPFUSA, thank you so very much for having given me such a wonderful opportunity to address you today.

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