Kishida’s Speech to U.S. Congress Looks to Shared Future; Theme Contrasts With Abe’s Speech in 2015

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden shake hands at a welcoming ceremony at the White House in Washington on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — In his address to the U.S. Congress on Thursday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida outlined the future of the Japan-U.S. relationship, in which the two countries play their roles together. He also called for cooperation with like-minded countries, in an attempt to keep the United States involved in foreign affairs at a time when the country is increasingly inward-looking ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.

“I want to address those Americans who feel the loneliness and exhaustion of being the country that has upheld the international order almost singlehandedly. I understand it is a heavy burden to carry such hopes on your shoulders,” Kishida told the Congress, showing respect for the determination that the United States has shown to fulfill its role and the ultimate sacrifice many of its people have made — while at the same time encouraging the country to keep up its involvement abroad.

When then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed the U.S. Congress in 2015, the theme of the speech was “reconciliation” between the two countries, which fought each other in World War II. He expressed “deep repentance” for the war and called the Japan-U.S. alliance an “alliance of hope.”

In his latest speech, Kishida did not mention regret or repentance for the past because he stuck to focusing on a future-oriented speech, according to a close aide to Kishida.

“On the spaceship called ‘Freedom and Democracy,’ Japan is proud to be your shipmate,” he said. “We are on deck, we are on task. And we are ready to do what is necessary.”

Kishida likened Japan, the United States and the countries standing with them to people in the same boat. He reviewed and corrected the manuscript many times and made other preparations such as taking a lesson on how to deliver a speech, including body language and hand gestures, from an American who has worked as a speechwriter for a U.S. president.

“Without U.S. support, how long before the hopes of Ukraine would collapse under the onslaught from Moscow?”

Keeping in mind the Republicans who are skeptical of continuing to aid Ukraine, Kishida stressed the necessity of that support and emphasized Japan’s commitment, saying: “I am here to say that Japan is already standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States. You are not alone.”

Kishida’s speech was arranged with the support of both Democrats and Republicans. Believing that this speech would determine the success or failure of his visit to the United States, Kishida instructed relevant officials to work on the U.S. Congress to let him deliver a speech.

Two Republicans played key roles in realizing Kishida’s speech: Sen. William Hagerty, a former U.S. ambassador to Japan who is known as a close ally of former President Donald Trump, and Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who takes a hardline stance on China. Two documents submitted by them to Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a Republican who has the authority to invite speakers, became the deciding factor, according to a senior official of the Japanese government.

It is of great significance that Japan was able to gain cooperation from the Republican Party in realizing Kishida’s speech, given the possibility of Trump, who is certain to win the Republican nomination for the upcoming presidential election, coming back as U.S. president. “This would be an important foundation for the Japan-U.S. alliance even if a change of government takes place in the United States,” a person involved in Japan-U.S. relations said.