Journalist’s Notebook: Shinzo Abe of Japan and the Value of International Friendship

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

The speech delivered at a joint meeting of Congress by the late Japanese leader Shinzo Abe has always stuck with me.

Partly because it helped my wife Carrie and I establish an international friendship.

Abe has made it a point to work with U.S. presidents as diverse as Barack Obama and Donald Trump to nurture U.S.-Japan relations.

Joint congressional meetings with foreign dignitaries are somewhat rare. Three prayers of this kind in one year is top of the range. Maybe one a year. Often there is none at all.

FORMER JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE MURDERED IN CAMPAIGN SPEECH, HOSPITAL OFFICIALS CONFIRM

With all due respect, I don’t remember anything from former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga’s speech in June 2006. I bet few others remember either. Same with former South Korean leaders Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun Hye in 2011 and 2013 respectively. I remember former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s remarks in 2009. Same with former Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko in 2014. And certainly, Pope Francis’ speech in September 2015.

But, Abe’s speech in April 2015 stood out, both because of his remarks and because of who I commuted that day to see their leader in person.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a campaign speech for ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate Keiichiro Asao for the Upper House election in Yokohama, a suburb of Tokyo on July 6.
(YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images)

I had never set foot in Japan before the spring of 2014. I at least try to visit the local legislature whenever I travel abroad or to another state. I have visited parliaments from Scotland to Germany to the Bahamas. In fact, I was told I couldn’t visit the Bahamas Senate because – surprise – I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. Amazing, I know. I rushed to the hotel and put on a blazer, tie and dress pants and took a cab back to the parliament building. Only then was I admitted, now wearing the proper attire.

I have also visited most of the provincial legislatures in Canada. I highly recommend the building in Victoria, BC. Beautiful setting at the water’s edge. I was amazed when the security personnel practically begged us to come to the provincial assembly in Winnipeg, Manitoba, one December. And frankly, we didn’t mind because the temperature was around 2 degrees Fahrenheit. They wanted an audience for a secondary school, a mock parliamentary assembly that met in the main legislative chamber.

TAIWAN LOSES MAJOR LAWYER, DEFENSIVE ALLY IN SHINZO ABE KILLING

So it was only natural that Carrie and I wanted to visit the Japanese legislature, the National Diet, in Tokyo. We could see the 215 foot high “central tower” of the Diet from our hotel. But when we approached it was impossible to tell how to get in. We walked around a bit. There seemed to be a line of Japanese tourists exiting a tour bus. So we lined up there, thinking that might eventually lead us to the assembly. But it was far from clear that waiting in that line would get us into the legislature.

That was until a Japanese man and his wife approached us and asked in broken English if we were trying to do a tour.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, wave before departing for New York, at Haneda Airport in Tokyo in November 2016.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie, wave before departing for New York, at Haneda Airport in Tokyo in November 2016.
(Takuto Kaneko/Kyodo News via AP, File)

Yes! Maybe they could help us.

They introduced themselves. The man was Akitsugu (Aki) Kimura. His wife was Mizuho Kimura. They were also going on a tour. Aki was a member of the Japanese military and was about to participate in a military exchange program with the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. They would be happy to help us get in. In addition, it allowed them both to practice their English.

JAPAN SHINZO ABE DEAD: BIDEN ‘ASTONISHED, OUTREGED’ FOR KILLING

Aki grabbed me and walked to the front of the line, telling Carrie to wait with Mizuho. We entered a small building where Aki filled out several forms. Aki told me he would welcome us as “family”.

Twenty minutes later, were inside and on a Diet tour.

In 2015, Aki and Mizuho were in Carlisle with their daughter Hikari. I knew I had to reciprocate when I learned that then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had invited Shinzo Abe to speak at a joint meeting of Congress in April 2015. Washington, DC is only a two hour and 15 minute drive from Carlisle. I asked if they would like to come see their leader speak at a joint meeting of Congress. Of course, the answer was yes.

Then-Vice President Joe Biden toasts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the State Department in Washington on April 28, 2015.

Then-Vice President Joe Biden toasts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the State Department in Washington on April 28, 2015.
(PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images, file)

Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret about joint congressional meetings with foreign dignitaries. Sometimes there is not much demand for seats inside the chamber of the Chamber. It depends on the “star power” of the foreign leader addressing Congress.

Pope?

You’d have a better chance of getting tickets to watch Taylor Swift, the Super Bowl and “Hamilton” – simultaneously.

SHINZO ABE’S ASSASSINATION: POPE FRANÇOIS SENDS ‘SINCERE CONDOLENCES’ TELEGRAM TO JAPAN

Gordon Brown? Above-average demand for tickets.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in April 2019? Not really. However, the demand for this note probably increased exponentially after the war in Ukraine and the potential rise of Sweden and Finland in NATO.

Shinzo Abe? High. But not stratospheric as for the Pope.

But there are only 1,665 seats in the House Chamber’s public viewing gallery. So I had to make a few phone calls. Within hours, I secured a few spots for Abe’s address for our friends in Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo in August 2020.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo in August 2020.
(Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Aki and Mizuho came down from Carlisle. I would then take them to the Capitol and be there myself for the speech since I am covering Congress. Carrie took Hikari for the day to some of the National Mall sites, including the Natural History Museum.

I remember accompanying Aki and Mizuho to the Capitol and being stopped by a Capitol Police officer. They had tightened the security perimeter around the building that day due to Abe’s presence. I showed the officer the tickets they had for the speech. He let us pass.

Later that day, I showed Aki and Mizuho around the Capitol. I even introduced them to Boehner and current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. McCarthy was whip at the time.

POMPEO ON ABE: “HE WAS THE PERFECT PARTNER FOR THE UNITED STATES”

One thing stood out from Abe’s speech. Many political leaders quote Shakespeare, Churchill or Plato when giving a speech in such a setting.

Not Shinzo Abe. He spoke about the friendship between the United States and Japan and quoted an unlikely source.

“When I was young in high school and listening to the radio, there was a song that flew out and shook my heart. It was a Carole King song,” Abe said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressing parliament in Tokyo.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressing parliament in Tokyo.
(Associated Press, File)

The late Prime Minister then quoted King.

“When you’re down and troubled, close your eyes and think of me. And I’ll be there to light up even your darkest night,” Abe said. “Yes. We have a friend in you.”

Abe valued the friendship between the United States and Japan, especially after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Aki and Mizuho were kind to my wife as we were bewildered tourists trying to enter the National Diet in Japan.

And we were happy to return the favor to our friends here on Capitol Hill the following year.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.