This year JUMP held several events, including reunions for Navy and Marine veterans and their families and a send-off party for graduating Naval Academy cadets headed to Japan… I think it deepened the friendship and the alliance in personal ways.
—Ambassador Ken-Ichiro Sasae
The following is a rough transcript of a speech given by the Honorable Ken-Ichiro Sasae, Ambassador of Japan to the U.S., at the 62nd Self Defense Forces Day reception on October 27, 2016. Click here to read more about JUMP’s participation at the event.
Good evening and welcome.
You may have noticed that our flag is flying at half-mast today. It is because Prince Mikasa, the uncle of Emperor Akihito and brother of Emperor Hirohito, has passed away. At 100 years old, he was the oldest member of the Imperial Family. On his 100th birthday, he said, “I’d like to spend my days pleasantly and peacefully while praying for the happiness of people around the world and thanking my wife, Yuriko, who has been supporting me for more than 70 years.” He is survived by his wife, Princess Yuriko, who is 93.
Let us have a moment of silence for Prince Mikasa, who we will miss.
While this is a time of mourning for us, we have made the decision to carry on with this reception out of respect to our friends here, and because we cherish the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Tonight we are celebrating the founding—62 years ago—of Japan’s Self Defense Forces. I was 3 years old when the Self-Defense Forces were established in 1954. It helps me put things in perspective to remember that Japan did not have a military when I was born. Exhausted by war, we were a nation struggling to get on our feet.
Every Japanese family can tell you of the food shortages and hardships and confusion we faced after the war. For security we depended upon the United States and on a police force, at that time.
Last year I went to many events in the U.S. marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. I could feel the genuine public reconciliation that had occurred and the friendships that had formed over those years.
The security alliance, of course, has been quietly progressing for many years in many ways, including the recent new defense guidelines and new security legislation. After the memories of the war, even the Japanese people were cautious about strengthening our Self Defense Forces. In fact, it wasn’t until 2006 that the Defense Agency was raised to a cabinet-level department and made the Ministry of Defense.
But year-by-year our trust grew; our self-confidence grew; our friendship grew and our alliance also grew.
Last month in Ft. Worth, we saw new evidence of our closeness with the rollout of our Air Self Defense Forces’ new F-35s. This advanced stealth fighter is a good example of our improved defense capabilities in conjunction with the U.S. policy of rebalancing toward Asia. As you know, this comes at a time when the security environment surrounding Japan is increasingly difficult.
But let me tell you something that brought home to me Japan-U.S. closeness in a very meaningful way. In March of this year, we marked the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The Japanese people will long remember the assistance of U.S. Forces—all the ships and aircraft and personnel—who took part in Operation TOMODACHI. As I told a group the other day, this was an armada of friendship.
I think Operation TOMODACHI must be considered meaningful to the U.S. military as well. Indeed, in the halls of the Pentagon, a permanent exhibition commemorating that operation was installed this March. I think TOMODACHI broke through the cultural differences into something more personal between our two armed forces.
Our Embassy is undertaking its own efforts to strengthen the alliance.
For example, we began the Japan U.S. Military Program—or JUMP—for military members and their families who were stationed in Japan since last year. This year JUMP held several events, including reunions for Navy and Marine veterans and their families and a send-off party for graduating Naval Academy cadets headed to Japan. Over 2,400 service members and their families who have served in Japan are connected in person through these events and nearly 30,000 people are connected through JUMP social media.
In July, the Embassy hosted a reception to welcome a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces Training Squadron during a port visit in Baltimore. I think it deepened the friendship and the alliance in personal ways.
So, in closing, as we meet here to mark the Self Defense Forces’ anniversary, we also celebrate the alliance and friendship between Japan and the United States.
And I would like to thank all of you for coming this evening to help us do that. Thank you very much.
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