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Ambassador Kato Prize

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, The Pentagon, Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I first want to welcome my good friend Ambassador Kato.  I was about ready to say, “my old friend,” but – longtime – my longtime friend Ambassador Kato.  It’s nice to see you again, and we’re grateful that you’re here.

To Ambassador Sasae, good to see you again.  Thank you.  It’s always good to have you with us.

All our distinguished guests on the committee, those who helped decide who is worthy of this distinguished award, I appreciate all your time and what you’ve done for this alliance, this relationship, over the years.

 We’re here to honor Chris Johnstone, as we all know, and we’re here to honor him for his dedication to strengthening U.S.-Japanese relations, in particular, the U.S.-Japan Alliance.  Everyone in this room has done an awful lot to strengthen that alliance over your careers and your lives, so, this group in particular sitting here understands this recognition as well as anyone.

I also want to acknowledge Chris’s wife, Mikiko, for your presence here today – you honor us – and also for your strong support for Chris, and what he’s been able to accomplish, and your support of this alliance, this relationship.  So thank you for being here.

I’ve known Ambassador Kato for many years.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with Ambassador Kato over the years.  In fact, I even hosted him once in Nebraska, one of strange foreign lands.  He was out there to resolve the beef dispute, as you will recall, and I think it was soon resolved after Ambassador Kato honored us with his presence.  And if you remember, Ambassador, they gave us a fancy jacket, fancy hat.  I know you wear those to the baseball games all the time in Japan.

Those of you who know Ambassador Kato well, have worked with him over the years, as I think you all have, you know that he’s very fond of quoting former Secretary of State George Shultz.  Shultz once said that working with allies is a lot like gardening.  It requires constant attention, constant effort.  And I think that we all appreciate and understand what Secretary Shultz said and what he meant, and I think we all know that that comparison of gardening, and constant attention to your garden, really does cut to the core of what alliance management is all about.

If you don’t take the time to nurture a garden, if you don’t take the time to do what’s required, if you only care about it when you need something, you end up with a lot full of weeds.  Which I think the astute gardeners in this room, of course Kurt Campbell being one of the probably most preeminent gardeners of our time, they know that.  You have to be patient, and you have to tend to the garden.

Chris Johnstone has proven himself to be an exceptional gardener all his career, and especially here at DoD since he arrived in 2010.  Everyone who works on Asia policy at DoD – and some are here – know that Chris has played a critical role in helping this alliance grow, and this alliance strengthen and deepen.

And when the outside policy community recognizes that you’ve made a difference, as that community has recognized Chris with making a significant difference, that’s something very special.  It represents the real-world impact of Chris’s quiet determination to strengthen our alliance since he first visited Japan more than 20 years ago.

Over the last four months, Chris’s efforts have yielded significant and tangible progress.  We had the first 2+2 meeting between our two countries’ Ministers and Secretaries of State and Defense held in Japan, where Secretary Kerry and I met with our Japanese counterparts.  We announced that for the first time since 1997, we’ll be revising the guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation.

And a few weeks ago, we had the most significant milestone achieved so far in the realignment of U.S. forces on Okinawa.  That occurred when the landfill permit for the Futenma Replacement Facility was approved.

All of this serves as a very clear demonstration that the U.S.-Japan Alliance can handle complex and difficult problems that might otherwise prevent us from effectively dealing with 21st century security challenges.  And it would not have been possible without Chris’s leadership, his persistence, his hard work, and his gardening.

Earlier today, I received a note from Ambassador Caroline Kennedy extending her congratulations to Chris.  She wrote, “We appreciate Chris’s dedication to the U.S.-Japan Alliance, including his steadfast work on the 2013 2+2 joint statement.”  Chris, “Your commitment and example is an inspiration to all ‘Alliance Managers,’ and we look forward to continuing to work alongside you in the future.”

Chris, you’ve played an indispensable role in helping take the U.S.-Japan relationship to the next level.  We are all grateful for your service, and we are all very proud of your accomplishments.  And I appreciate the support you have provided me, as you have other leaders of this institution over the years.

We all wish you much continued success, and to Mikiko, and we thank you.

Thank you very much.

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