Bidens toast strong alliance with Japan at state dinner for PM Kishida

U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio toast during a state dinner in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
1 of 15 | U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio toast during a state dinner in the East Room of the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

April 11 (UPI) -- U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden honored Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his wife, Yuko Kishida, with a spring-themed state dinner Wednesday night at the White House that was bursting with symbolism of the deepening relationship between the countries.

Held in the East Room, the dinner began about 8 p.m. EDT with the Bidens entering as the band played Hail to the Chief.


In kicking off the black-tie event, the president offered brief remarks and a toast.

He joked about how Washington's famed Japanese cherry blossoms had bloomed early for the occasion, but as they are the first sign of spring, they are a reminder of renewal, how tomorrow can be a better day and symbolize what Japan and the United States cherish -- "New beginnings," he said.


He recited a story of receiving a sticker-adorned envelope in the days following his inauguration. It was filled with letters written by Japanese students who suffered from stuttering and had been compiled by their teacher.

The teacher wanted Biden to know that when she told her students that he, too, stuttered, they "lit up smiling and they said, 'We're the same,'" the president recalled.

"We are the same, Japan and the United States," he said. "We may be divided by distance, but generations after generations, we have been brought together by the same hopes, the same values, the same commitment to democracy and freedom and to dignity for all.

"And today, without question, our alliance is literally stronger than it has ever been."

He said the two countries have grown from enemies to the closest of allies and that Wednesday night they vow to keep growing together.

Though Biden did not mention China by name during his toast, its growing threat in the Indo-Pacific region has been omnipresent during the two days the Kishidas have been in Washington.

Earlier Wednesday, the two world leaders committed to developing a new military cooperative network system.

"We stand at an inflection point, where the decisions we make now are going to determine the course of the future for decades to come," Biden said. "But I also know that Japan and the United States stand together, and everyone should know that as well."


He lifted his glass to toast the Kishidas and the more than 200 guests at the dinner.

"To our alliance, to our friendship and, in the words of those young students in Japan, to the same future we share," he said.

The Japanese prime minister spoke next, reciting in English the connections between the United States and his family home of Hiroshima, which he said is home to the largest number of Japanese immigrants to the Untied States.

"'The Pacific Ocean does not separate Japan and the United States. Rather, it unites us,'" Kishida said, quoting words that U.S. President John F. Kennedy wrote to Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato of Japan in 1961.

He joked that his staff tried to delete it from his speech, as he recites it so often, but "there is nothing that expresses our relationship as visibly as this."

"And never have these words been more relevant than today," he said, adding to applause that Japan and the United States have never been more united.

They spoke before the likes of actor Robert De Niro, American figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and billionaires Jeff Bezos and Tim Cook, as well as former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


Japanese dignitaries present included billionaire Masayoshi Son, JAXA astronaut Hoshide Akihiko and J-pop duo Ayasa and Ikuta Lilas, as well as many others.

The dinner consisted of a first course of a house-cured salmon dish inspired by the California roll, followed by a main course of dry-aged ribeye steak, with a salted caramel pistachio cake and cherry ice cream for dessert.

The decor was inspired by spring and sought to transform the room into a vibrant garden -- "a place of joy and renewal, of hope and growth," Jill Biden told reporters on Tuesday.

Guests were to sit among flowers, while glass and silk butterflies from the United States and Japan flew above the tables.

"Their graceful flight, a reminder that as our nations navigate the winds of change, we do so together -- as partners in peace and prosperity," the first lady said.

About 10 p.m., the guests entered the State Dining Room, where American musician Paul Simon was to perform the night's entertainment, starting off with Graceland and Slip Slidin' Away.

Kishida is the fifth world leader to be honored with a state dinner by the Bidens, after the leaders of Australia, India, France and South Korea.


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