By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ryozo Kato presented the ambassador’s namesake prize to Pentagon Asia policy expert Christopher Johnstone in honor of his contributions toward strengthening U.S.-Japanese relations.
“We’re here to honor Chris Johnstone … for his dedication to strengthening U.S.-Japanese relations, in particular, the U.S.-Japan Alliance,” Hagel said.
Hagel was joined by the current Japanese ambassador to Washington Kenichiro Sasae as Johnstone, accompanied by his wife, Mikiko, was recognized for his dedication to the two nations.
“Everyone in this room has done an awful lot to strengthen that alliance over your careers and your lives,” Hagel said. This group understands this recognition as well as anyone, he said.
The Kato Prize was created in 2008 to honor the career and spirit of Ambassador Kato when he retired as Japan’s U.S. ambassador. Kato was recognized for inspiring a generation of Japanese and American officials with his persistent and patriotic commitment to building a stronger alliance.
Johnstone’s award credited him with playing a central role in launching the bilateral defense guidelines review, navigating the tensions in the East China Sea, and achieving new progress on bilateral plans to realign U.S. forces on Okinawa and in the Western Pacific.
During the ceremony, Hagel noted Kato’s affinity for quoting former Secretary of State George Schultz.
“Shultz once said that working with allies is a lot like gardening,” Hagel said. “It requires constant attention, constant effort.”
“Chris Johnstone has proven himself to be an exceptional gardener all his career, and especially here at DOD since he arrived in 2010,” Hagel said.
“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,” Hagel said.
The defense secretary said when the outside policy community recognizes someone that is making a 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’ efforts have yielded significant and tangible progress,” he added.
Hagel pointed to the first 2+2 meeting between U.S. and Japanese ministers and secretaries of state and defense which were held in Japan as part of that progress.
“We announced that for the first time since 1997, we’ll be revising the guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation.” The most significant milestone achieved so far, Hagel said, is in the realignment of U.S. forces on Okinawa which happened 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,” Hagel said.
“And it would not have been possible without Chris’s leadership, his persistence, his hard work, and his gardening,” he added.
The defense secretary also highlighted a note he received from the U.S. Ambassador to Japan Carline Kennedy “extending her congratulations” to Johnstone.
“‘We appreciate Chris’s dedication to the U.S.-Japan Alliance, including his steadfast work on the 2013 2+2 joint statement,’” Hagel quoted. “‘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.’”
Hagel expressed his gratitude to Johnstone for his “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,” he said. “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,” Hagel said. “And we thank you.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallAFPS)
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