Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Visit to Washington, DC

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A note from USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye

Dear USJC Members and Friends,

Today, April 28, 2015, marked the first day of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official state visit to Washington, DC. The U.S.-Japan Council warmly welcomes Prime Minister & Mrs. Abe to the United States. On Monday, the Abes were hosted by Secretary of State John Kerry & Mrs. Kerry in Boston, accompanied by our U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

There is definitely a “buzz” in Washington, DC as the day’s events started with a “turn-away” crowd of well-wishers on the South Lawn of the White House, where President & Mrs. Obama warmly welcomed the Prime Minister & Mrs. Abe. Several of USJC’s leadership, members, supporters and staff were on-hand. During his remarks, President Obama said that the Prime Minister’s visit “is a celebration of the ties of friendship and family that bind our peoples,” something that he felt “growing up in Hawaii . . . home to so many proud Japanese Americans.”

Following their meeting, a U.S.-Japan Joint Vision Statement was issued by President Obama and the Prime Minister. The final words of the Joint Vision Statement spoke to the important work USJC has undertaken since its inception, and reinforces our commitment to continue investing in the opportunities that lie ahead:

” . . . we also have before us exciting opportunities to raise our collaboration to a new level, in areas like science and technology, energy, infrastructure, and arts and culture. The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in these and other areas, supported by public-private collaboration, will continue to be the driving force of economic growth and prosperity in our two countries. The benefits of our work in these diverse fields will be global in reach. As we move forward, we will actively promote people-to-people exchange as a key pillar of our relationship, especially among younger generations. We take up these challenges and opportunities, knowing that the strength and resilience of our 70-year partnership will ensure our success in the decades ahead.”

Additionally, the two leaders issued a new Fact Sheet, “U.S.-Japan Cooperation for a More Prosperous and Stable World,” that specifically called for the two nations to “continue to strengthen people-to-people ties, including efforts to increase student, research, and legislative exchanges, [and] welcome the ‘KAKEHASHI Initiative toward the Future’ and the ‘TOMODACHI Initiative,’” as ways to develop bonds between the two economically integrated powers.

The Fact Sheet highlights the importance of harnessing science, technology, and innovation; cooperating to promote regional and global stability; and promoting sustainable development around the world. We look forward to advancing many of these very areas during our Annual Conference in Tokyo this November.

A luncheon in honor of the Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe was also hosted by Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Mrs. Therese Heinz Kerry at the State Department. Among USJC leadership attending were: Vice Chair of the Board of Councilors Norm Mineta; Members of the Board of Councilors Gerald Curtis, Glen Fukushima, Doris Matsui, Motoatsu Sakurai, Tom Schieffer, and Vice President Walter Mondale; Members of the Board of Directors Atsuko Fish and Fred Katayama; and myself and USJC Executive Vice President and COO Suzanne Basalla.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of State

I was honored to sit next to Mrs. Akie Abe and Ambassador Sasae. The table also included Ann Curry, Ambassador Kennedy, former Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Madeline Albright, and Henry Kissinger; Foreign Minister Kishida, Secretary Kerry & Mrs. Kerry, Vice President Biden, and Prime Minister Abe.

In his remarks, Vice President Biden graciously acknowledged Senator Daniel Inouye and pointed to the Senator’s example as a strong Japanese American leader who contributed to U.S.-Japan relations throughout his life. The Vice President commented that the Senator often reminded us of the importance of the Alliance not only for our own interest and Japan’s interest, but in the interest of the global community. The Vice President added that this relationship has never been more consequential than it is today.

On a personal note, it is very exciting to see the reach and prominence of our USJC leadership with the Prime Minister’s visit.  I know Dan would have been pleased to see the prominence of the U.S.-Japan relationship and proud of the important role that our Council leaders will play throughout this visit.

Today was truly a wonderful beginning to the Prime Minister’s historic visit. We are looking forward to Prime Minister Abe’s address to the Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday morning.

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