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Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.20 (February 26, 2009)

"Cornerstone of peace and prosperity"
-- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Taro AsoProfile Japanese

After the summit meeting in Sakhalin with the Russian President last week, I had my first meeting with President Barack Obama of the United States this week. I was the first foreign head of state to be invited by President Obama to the White House, which I feel points to the new administration's stance of placing importance on Japan.

A sincere and frank person -- this was the impression I gained of President Obama when meeting him for the first time.

In the current difficult circumstances, President Obama is naturally working hard for the recovery of the US economy, but at the same time, he has a sense of mission that he must also work for the recovery of the global economy. I had a great deal of empathy for him. President Obama and I can work hand in hand and I was convinced of the trust between us. I believe that President Obama felt the same way.

Although I attended Japan-US summit meetings and met with a US president when I was Minister for Foreign Affairs, this time I felt the weight of responsibility as Prime Minister of Japan when discussing courses of action on a range of issues with the President of the United States in the midst of the global economic crisis.

In his first summit meeting at the White House, President Obama looked me in the eye and listened attentively to every word I said, demonstrating great sincerity. This was very impressive.

He had a strong interest in environmental and energy conservation issues, and was highly knowledgeable about them. Reference was made to Japan's energy efficiency being twice as good as that of the United States. President Obama and I agreed that Japan and the United States, with our technological prowess and economic strengths, must work together.

I mentioned that in Tokyo's 23 wards, an area with approximately 10 million people, the rate of dependence on railways for transportation was 76% and thus, even though Tokyo was so densely populated, it had been able to avoid major traffic problems and extremely polluted air. (By comparison, the rate in the United States as a whole is just 1%.)

President Obama, who was thinking about restructuring the railway network in the United States, was greatly interested in this point.

Given our common awareness of issues, our discussions were of a highly substantive nature. The Japan-US alliance is a linchpin of Japan's diplomacy, and President Obama stated it was a "cornerstone" of the diplomacy of the United States.

We discussed issues including ones concerning finance and the economy, North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as climate change and energy. As the leader of the world's second largest economy, I will work hand in hand with President Obama, the leader of the largest economy, to the fullest extent possible for the peace and prosperity of the world.

After the meeting with President Obama, I went to Arlington National Cemetery, the burial place of American war dead.

With a clear blue sky and cold wind, inside the huge grounds equivalent to 53 Tokyo Domes, I was met by several hundred honor guards who lined the sides of a long, gently-ascending approach. Foreign heads of state are given a 19-gun salute. The car I rode in advanced ceremoniously and arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After the playing of the Japanese national anthem and US national anthem, I offered a wreath modeled on the Japanese flag.

A nation enshrines with the utmost honor and respect the souls of the unknown soldiers who gave their precious lives for their nation. During my time as Prime Minister of Japan, paying the greatest respect to the souls of the servicemen and women of another country, a former enemy, was one of the most solemn moments I have experienced. I had visited this cemetery many times before, but this time, visiting as the head of state, I was moved by a heart-quivering solemnity that was completely different from what I had experienced in the past.

Then I moved to the graves of those who lost their lives in the line of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I paid my respects in the same manner. I was strongly reminded that the United States was a country fighting against terrorism.

As the bearer of the highest level of responsibility in Japan, I reaffirmed my determination to safeguard the national interest and ensure the peace and prosperity of the world.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Taro Aso
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Jun Matsumoto
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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