Hill: Japan prime minister provides “outstanding” address on U.S. relationship

by Alex Thomas
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
April 11, 2024

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., lauded Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida following the latter's address before Congress on Thursday, in which the prime minister emphasized the importance of the United States-Japan relationship and Japan's role in international matters.

Kishida spoke before a joint meeting of Congress as part of an official visit to the United States. The trip also involved meeting with President Joe Biden on Wednesday; the two leaders used the talk to highlight the importance of confronting shared interests, including threats posed by North Korea, China and Russia.

Hill, of Little Rock, was part of the congressional Escort Committee ushering Kishida into the House of Representatives chamber for the address. The congressman served a similar role last April when South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol appeared before Congress.

"I believe he articulated in an outstanding way the partnership the United States has with Japan in assuring American leadership and partnership with Japan in the global objectives of peace and prosperity," Hill told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette following Kishida's remarks.

Some of Hill's legislative work has concentrated on the United States' relationships with Japan and other Asia-Pacific allies. The congressman participated in a visit last April to Taiwan with fellow House Foreign Affairs Committee members. Hill and a congressional delegation took part in a February 2023 trip to Japan and South Korea focused on the multilateral partnership.

Kishida used part of his address to highlight the United States' role in international affairs and the importance of cooperation in addressing potential threats.

"As we meet here today, I detect an undercurrent of self-doubt among some Americans about what your role in the world should be," the prime minister said.

"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. Although the world looks to your leadership, the U.S. should not be expected to do it all, unaided and on your own."

Stating "the international order that the U.S. worked for generations to build is facing new challenges," Kishida acknowledged regional threats to Japan presented by China's military aggression and North Korea's "provocations" through missile tests. He further connected these threats to Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine, saying the "Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow."

"I am here to say that Japan is already standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States," the prime minister said, describing the United States' role among nations as "indispensable."

"Upholding these values is both a cause and a benefit for our two countries as well as for the generations to come across the world," he said.

Like the United States, Japan has implemented sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. Kishida noted Japan has contributed $12 billion in assistance to Ukraine.

Kishida emphasized Japan's role in multiple international partnerships, including the Group of Seven nations and lateral relationships with Australia, the Philippines and other nations.

"I am an idealist, but a realist, too," he added later. "The defense of freedom, democracy and the rule of law is the national interest of Japan."

Hill recognized the United States' omnipresent nature on a global scale, yet he noted American leaders have "consistently" asked European and Asian partners to do more in confronting aggressive threats.

"In my view, the prime minister's speech actually was the fruit of all that labor," the congressman said. "Japan recognizes America's pivotal -- he said 'indispensable' -- leadership, but that we can't do it alone in this big complicated world, and we shouldn't have to."

Federal lawmakers face mounting pressure to continue helping Ukraine in its war against Russia. The Senate passed a $95.3 billion package providing assistance to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific, but the House has yet to consider the legislation.

Hill was part of a bipartisan House delegation that met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy regarding the United States' support for Ukraine's military defense. Zelenskyy warned Hill and others about Ukrainian forces rationing munitions, hampering offensive efforts against Russia.

"Korea, Japan and the United States stand firm in our opposition to Putin's invasion of Ukraine," Hill said Thursday.

"Those trilateral partners want to send that major signal of deterrence to China to make sure China is a strong, effective regional player but not a threat to its neighbors, including Taiwan, and a threat to a free and open Indo-Pacific trading region."

Hill invited staff assistant Chloe Cotabish to Kishida's address. The Conway native is an alumna of Doshisha University in Kyoto, where she studied politics and global studies. On top of her full-time position in the congressman's Capitol Hill office, she is pursuing a graduate degree at American University in Washington, D.C., with her studies focused on American foreign policy and national security.

"I thought it would be interesting, if I was going to enter the field of diplomacy, to get an outside perspective on bilateral, multilateral relationships," Cotabish said regarding her four years at Doshisha University.

Cotabish was one of a few Americans in a student body mainly consisting of students from Japan and surrounding nations, but she considers this diversity to be a positive aspect of her undergraduate experience.

"When we talked about political issues and global issues, it was always from the outside perspective," she said. "A crucial part of my experience going to school in Japan was understanding how people view the same topics very differently based on their own country's context."

Keep In Touch

Please sign up below to receive my weekly newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.