Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki of Japan at the State Dinner

May 7, 1981

The President. It's been a pleasure for Nancy and me to welcome the Prime Minister and Mrs. Suzuki to Washington. Our discussions today have been positive and constructive and I think have served to deepen the understanding between our two countries. As we talked, I thought again about the differences and the similarities between Japan and America, and I was struck by how much more profound the similarities are. We are two nations based on freedom, free enterprise, private industry, and democracy. We have become principal trading partners and chief competitors. [Laughter]

There's a legend in Japan about two villages separated by a river, and on moonlight nights a man from one town would come out and sing. And his voice would resound farther and farther, floating out across the river until it reached the other town. Meanwhile, the people of the second town decided to compete. They looked for a singer who could surpass the excellence of the man across the river. And then it happened that one night another voice was heard, and the second was fully as rich as the first. And when the original singer heard it, he realized he was faced with a strong rival, and he sang and sang at the top of his voice. And the singing grew more and more beautiful as each singer found depths to his talent that he hadn't known were there.

Well, Japan and America are like those singers. We each seek great achievements, and the standards we set for each other are marks of excellence. And yet we do not exhaust ourselves in the contest, but rather, pursue our respective goals as friends and allies.

The Japanese-American relationship is the anchor of American policy in East Asia. It is a pillar of strength in a world where democratic values are always under challenge. Our friendship is based on respect and mutual trust. America will honor her commitments to Japan, and we will continue to consult fully as true partners. Together we confront a serious world situation.

Energy supplies are uncertain. Economies are fragile. The Soviet Union continues its aggression, and the dynamics of the Persian Gulf are precarious. And the United States will play an active role in addressing these challenges, and we welcome Japan's determination to participate as a full partner in behalf of world peace. Just as we will count on Japan, Japan can count on America.

We will continue our respective search for excellence, and we shall cooperate with each other, bringing to the world the high standards of the future a little more quickly. The voices that call to each other across the Pacific will remain in harmony.

And with that goal in mind I ask all of you to join me in a toast to the Prime Minister and to Mrs. Suzuki and to the strong and growing and enduring friendship between Japan and the United States.

The Prime Minister. President and Mrs. Reagan, ladies and gentlemen:

Let me first express my sincere gratitude to President Reagan for this splendid banquet and for your warm greetings to my wife and me and the Japanese people. Though I have met with you only this morning for the first time, Mr. President, this gathering tonight and your warm hospitality make me feel as if we have known each other for many years.

I was born on the Pacific coast of the northern part of Japan and grew up beside the roaring surf coming from the east. California, which has been your home for so many years, is facing my home country across the Pacific. I spent my youth dreaming of America, the land of liberty, lying far across the sea. Belonging as we do to the same generation, Mr. President, I expect that you and I share a similar experience of the vicissitudes of our times. Add to that the fact that Japan and the United States have a long history of helping each other as true friends, and it is natural that I should feel a deep sense of friendship for you, Mr. President, as if we had known each other for many, many years.

Mr. President, allow me to mention two recent events in the United States which have moved me very deeply. The first has to do with the unfortunate incident you came across a short time ago. My colleagues and I, and indeed the people of Japan as a whole, were all deeply distressed to learn of that regrettable event. What struck us most of all, however, was the fortitude and devotion with which Mrs. Reagan supported you and the calm presence of mind and admirable sense of humor which you, Mr. President, displayed in dealing with the situation. The affairs of state, in the meantime, remained in firm and reliable hands, and at no time was there any cause for concern among your allies about the United States leadership capability. Japan's faith in the United States of America has been greatly enhanced.

The second event is the heroic achievement of the space shuttle Columbia. Despite the fact that it was after 3 a.m. local time, over 3 million Japanese sat glued to their television sets to watch the Columbia's successful return to Earth. The frontier spirit of the American people has been a constant source of courage and inspiration to the Japanese people, and frontier spirit is in perfect harmony with our traditional spirit of enterprise.

Ladies and gentlemen, President Reagan and I have today reaffirmed how important solidarity and cooperation between Japan and the United States is to the prosperity of mankind in the years to come. We have also affirmed that Japan-U.S. partnership has grown to be an indispensable element in the peace and stability of the Asian-Pacific region, as well as that of the international community as a whole.

The present turbulent international situation makes me intensely aware of the precious value of freedom that Japan, the United States, and other democracies have consistently defended over the years. We must cooperate in pooling our wisdom to build still more peaceful and vigorous societies imbued with the spirit of freedom. As the Prime Minister of Japan, I am determined to do everything I can to join hands with you, Mr. President, and to work together for the sake of the future generations of the 21st century.

The success of the space shuttle inspires us to challenge the unknown. Tireless effort to build a better world for the future is a common task for the people of all nations. I would like to share with you this spirit of challenge.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to mention one more reason why I feel as if President Reagan is an old friend. We were born in the same year and are both proud of being a youthful 70. [Laughter] I have to admit, however, Mr. President, that I cannot match your health and vitality. This is because I was born, unfortunately, 26 days before you, which gives you that much edge. [Laughter]

More seriously, Mr. President, I wish to congratulate you on the great victory sign for your administration today as your budget has passed Congress.

Let me conclude by offering a toast to the health of the President and Mrs. Reagan and to the prosperity of the people of the United States of America.

Note: The President spoke at 9:37 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. The Prime Minister spoke in Japanese, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.