Address by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto at the Welcoming Dinner on the Occasion of the Visit to Japan by President Jacques Chirac of the French Republic

19 November 1996

His Excellency Mr. President,
Mrs. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a supreme honor for me to welcome President Chirac and Madame Chirac as State Guests to Japan, and to host this Welcoming Dinner. I have long looked forward to welcoming the President and his wife to Japan, ever since we met at the G-7 Summit in Lyon this past June.

President Chirac, I call you Jacques, as you have already allowed me to do so.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As is well known by all, my friend Jacques has been deeply interested since his youth in Asia, and particularly in the culture and history of Japan. Jacques has already visited Japan 43 times, and he is renowned for his knowledge of and fondness for Japan. It is indeed fortunate for Japan that such a friend of our country is leading France, which lies at the core of Europe.

Japan and France both play an important role with responsibility for the international community, share common positions on many issues, and have strengthened their cooperation hand-in-hand to assume their increasing responsibility in the international community and in the relationship between Asia and Europe. It would be no exaggeration to say that this visit to Japan by Jacques marks a new acceleration in the dynamic relationship between Japan and France toward the 21st century.

Yesterday, Jacques and I exchanged views on a wide range of issues spanning the entire realm of international politics and international economics, without limiting ourselves to the domain of Japan-France bilateral relations. We both agreed to work to strengthen cooperation between our two countries. Specifically, we agreed to cooperate on the "France-Japan: 20 Actions for 2000," which we signed yesterday. I would like to call upon the ministers of both Japan and France gathered here tonight, as well as other distinguished individuals, to give their utmost efforts to the implementation of these "20 Actions" in the future.

Next year, La Maison de la Culture du Japon a Paris will open after more than a decade of preparation, and the "Japan Year in France" will start as well, under which a wide spectrum of events will be held to introduce Japan to the people of France. Similarly, the "France Year in Japan" will be held in 1998. I intend to ensure the success of this series of cultural exchange events. This is because I believe that in today's world, which is characterized by ongoing internationalization, understanding and recognizing the value of one's own identity, while at the same time learning about and respecting the culture and traditions of others, are what constitute true mutual understanding.

Dear Jacques, you epitomize that concept. At last year's Japan-EU Summit, when the Japanese delegation was invited to the Palais de l'Elysees, you displayed ancient works of art which you had brought in from the Musee des Arts Asiatiques Guimet. We were all greatly moved by the depth of your understanding of Japanese culture and by the gorgeous works which were displayed. Similarly, when I heard that you had thrice visited the "Kofuku-ji Temple Exhibition" currently being held in Paris, and that you had attended torchlit performances of noh, I was once again overwhelmed by the depth of your interest in our culture.

This evening, not to be outdone by your passion for our culture, and at the same time in order to mark a somewhat early celebration of your upcoming birthday later this month on the 29th, I have assembled for exhibition cultural treasures of our country, beginning with artifacts from the Jomon and Yayoi periods, which I understand are your favorites. I invite all of you to enjoy them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would now like to propose a toast:

To the continued health and success of Jacques and his wife,
To their memorable and comfortable stay in Japan,
And to the greater prosperity of the nation and people of the French Republic.

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