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Kishida Speaks to the US Congress: US Lawmakers React

Find out how lawmakers reacted after PM Kishida delivered his speech to Congress on Japan's commitment to the alliance and the future of Japan-US relations.



PM Kishida speaks before a Joint Session of the United States Congress, April 11 (© Kyodo)

American lawmakers commended Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Japan's commitment to partnership and democracy following his address to Congress.

On April 11, they praised Kishida's speech for its personal touch and emphasis on global collaboration. Notably, they applauded Japan's unwavering support for Ukraine and its enduring alliance with the United States. Democratic and Republican representatives highlighted the importance of bipartisan unity on critical issues, such as security cooperation and diplomatic partnerships. 

Kishida's message resonated with politicians nationwide, who recognize the vital role of nurturing robust ties between the two nations. Despite challenges, including Ridge Alkonis' detainment, there is a shared determination to address such issues collaboratively and advance mutual interests. 

The speech fosters optimism for continued cooperation and partnership between Japan and the US, spanning diverse sectors. It inspires hope for a fruitful relationship, from military cooperation to cultural exchanges.

Members of Congress from both parties answered the questions of our Sankei Shimbun Washington bureau colleagues on April 11. Excerpts follow.

US Senator Chris Coons (Democrat, Delaware)

What was your impression of the Prime Minister's speech?

Senator Coons: That was a tremendous speech. It was personal, heartfelt, forceful, timely, and relevant. It was exciting to hear from Prime Minister Kishida, both his vision and for strengthening and deepening the close partnership between the United States and Japan. 

He also used some humor and some personal reflections and stories from his own life. He really understood how to deliver a pitch-perfect speech to an American audience. It was very effective.


Do you think he received bipartisan support from both chambers?

Senator Coons: We were just talking about that. We ー many of us who were watching very closely ー stood up and cheered and clapped to know that Japan is shouldering the burden of securing the world alongside us, is dedicated to the freedom of Ukraine, has a clear-eyed strategic vision, and is our partner. [Our partner] in everything from culture, the gift of the cherry trees, to space exploration to the development of artificial intelligence. [This] was very reassuring to us. 

We, as you know, have our political divisions and differences right now. I think the most urgent thing before the House of Representatives is whether or not we will deliver aid to Ukraine. And to have the Prime Minister of such an important and powerful ally say, "We are with you. Please be America," was a very timely and powerful message.

(Read Senator Coons' written comment)

Congressman French Hill (Republican, Arkansas)

Representative Hill: Kishida's remarks were superb. I'm grateful for his standing up for Western values and our strong partnership that we have between our countries. He demonstrated something that the American foreign policy has desired for 80 years, which is our dear allies like Japan, standing up to say, "The American leadership is indispensable, but you should not have to do it alone and we don't want you to do it alone. We want to be at your side as your partner for peace, prosperity and a better world." 

US Congressman French Hill. (© Reuters by Elizabeth Fratz)

So I thought it was an outstanding speech and I thought, as I say again, the fruit of eight decades of labor was fully demonstrated by Kishida-san's outstanding presentation [in his] joint address today.

Do you think his speech received bipartisan support from members of both chambers?

Representative Hill: I think Japan ー our security, diplomatic, and economic partnership with Japan is firmly grounded in strong bipartisan support.

Do you think reforms to the Status of Forces Agreement, which some members are pushing (especially after Ridge Alkonis's detainment for several months), are needed?

Representative Hill: Look, that was a very sensitive topic. I think the government of Japan and the government of the United States worked very carefully on that. We have had long-standing basing arrangements and marine arrangements with Japan and I'm sure those are under constant, careful review by both sides.

Sir, going back to Mr. Kishida's speech, do you feel like he made a point to tell Republicans in the House that they needed to support Ukraine?

Representative Hill: I think he demonstrated something that is very important. That is, if we are partners for peace and prosperity around the world, in my view, and I think he echoed it in his speech, drawing the line in Ukraine is important. 

Both the Republic of Korea [and] the Government of Japan, and the United States have provided lethal and humanitarian support to the Ukrainians to eject Putin from their sovereign country. If we don't draw the line, we don't convince Putin that he cannot succeed in his taking over of Ukraine. That is going to create a lack of deterrence in East Asia and that's what Prime Minister Kishida [is warning].


Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (Democrat, Connecticut)

Representative DeLauro: Oh, my, I think it was just an excellent, excellent speech. His engaging personality and the references to his own family and background. And the close ties with the United States. But his message of peace, of strength, of support for democracy in a very difficult world, I think was very powerful. 

And I am so delighted that he was here, and [conveyed that message to all of us and our colleagues. He was very straightforward. There are some who, you know, have doubts. But despite the doubts, we've got to move forward as world leaders.

He repeated terms like "global partner."

Representative DeLauro: Yes. He [Japan's] a very strong partner with the United States. And I just found that very personal note [lovely]. I live in New Haven, Connecticut. Every year, we have a cherry blossom festival. That is because we have 75 Yoshino cherry trees that came from Japan many years ago. So it's a very, very close tie.

Congresswoman Stephanie Bice (Republican, Oklahoma)

What was your impression of Mr. Kishida's speech?

Representative Bice: The Prime Minister ー I think it was an incredible opportunity to have him here to speak to the joint session and share the message from the Japanese people about how supportive they are of the United States and continue this very long-standing relationship. 

There were many standing ovations. What is your evaluation of Prime Minister Kishida's message to the Congress? 

Representative Bice: Well, I think there were several messages. He wants to continue to foster the close ties that we have as it relates to military strategic intervention, supporting Ukraine. These are messages I think the Japanese people have expressed and also things that the American people needed to hear.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (Democrat, Texas)

Representative Jackson Lee:

[I'm] Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. I am a 29-year member of the United States Congress [and] I serve on the Budget Committee, the Homeland Security Committee, and Judiciary. All [have] issues that I've worked on with Japan. 

This is the most effective partnership speech that I've heard from a leader, but [it's] from Japan's leader. It is extremely important for the West and the East to be seen as strong and abiding by our friends. 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida with US Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Sheila Jackson Lee. (© Reuters by Michael A McCoy)

That's what was done today. Our friendship was instilled. It was girded by strength, that we want peace, but we're not going to run away from those who are opposing peace. And I think [one of] the two most important elements was his stand with Ukraine. We want that to be known. Democrats are standing with Ukraine. I want my Republicans to stand with Ukraine and now we will challenge them on the floor of the House: "Are you standing with Ukraine for peace and democracy and liberty?" 

That is extremely important. From my perspective, as a African American, I do want to see our relationship stronger. African American military, African American exchange students, businesses, I want to see more work done between Japan and the 30 million African Americans that are in this country. There are 30 million. That is a huge economic base. And I'm going to be fighting for that. 

Do you have a plan to invite Mr Kishida to your district in Texas?

I've invited the Prime Minister to Houston with a little bit of humor for baseball, the Astros, but we want serious meetings. And one of the more serious would be Ukraine. But also NASA [is a] very big, very big presence in the United States. NASA Johnson Space Center [in Houston, Texas]. 

So I look forward to this friendship growing. And it's going to be tough. I think it should be made known to the Japanese people that this relationship journey is going to be tough because we have those who disagree with both Japan and the United States. But we have to fight to make sure that we win over tyranny, that democracy and freedom win over tyranny.


Author: Kazuyuki Sakamoto, Washington Correspondent, The Sankei Shimbun