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                      Office of the Press Secretary
                              (Tokyo, Japan)
For Immediate Release                                   April 17, 1996     
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                       TO U.S. MILITARY PERSONNEL
                      On Board The USS Independence
                            Yokosuka, Japan 

3:35 P.M. (L)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much.

IN AUDIENCE: We love you, Mr. President! (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, Admiral Ellis, General Myers, Admiral Clemins, General Freeman, Admiral Tobin. Captain Polatty, I'm delighted to be here with you. Master Chief Dwiggens. To the members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, and to the sailors and families of the USS Independence and the 7th Fleet. To the children from the Sullivan School back there -- (applause) -- and their proud parents over here, I gather, and the other schools that are here.

I want to thank you for this wonderful welcome. The First Lady and I are delighted to be here, along with the Secretary of State, Ambassador and Mrs. Mondale, my Chief of Staff, Mr. Panetta, and Mr. Lake, the National Security Advisor. I should tell you that this is a particularly emotional moment for the Secretary of State because 51 years ago this September he came here to this very harbor as a 19-year-old ensign. So think what you might have ahead of you, all of you in the Navy. You may be Secretary of State some day. (Applause.)

I'm glad to be here on the USS Independence and with the 7th Fleet. I know there are others represented here -- I hope. From the Mobile Bay and the Bunker Hill -- (applause) -- from the Blue Ridge and the McCluskey -- (applause) -- the O'Brien and the Hewitt -- (applause) -- the Ashville and the Curtz -- (applause.) One enthusiastic sailor here. (Laughter.) The I-5 Team -- (applause.)

You know, for almost as long as there has been a United States there has been a ship called Independence. To you, the latest in the line of America's finest sailors, to all the United States Armed Forces in Japan, I bring a heartfelt message from every American back home: Thank you for your skill, your sacrifice, and your service. Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)

Way back in 1959, when the Indy slipped down the ways, President Eisenhower was in office, the Cold War was at its peak, and most of you weren't even born yet. But because the Indy was there, along with millions of brave men and women, we won that long Cold War struggle.

Time after time the sailors of the Independence stood up for freedom and stood down freedom's enemies. In the Cuban missile crisis, Indy was there. In Vietnam and Lebanon and Grenada, Indy was there. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, you were the first carrier on the scene. You delivered our answer up close and personal. In peacetime and war, this great ship and its battle group have been there as America's shield and America's sword.

Your last deployment off Taiwan helped to calm a rising storm. Without firing a single shot, you reassured nations all around the Pacific. With the quiet power of your example, you gave the world another example of America's power and America's character. And I thank you especially for that. (Applause.)

Through you, the United States is in the Western Pacific. We fought three wars in Asia in this century and sacrificed some of our finest Americans in every single one. With your strong presence here we are preventing war's return, and preserving stability for a remarkable region that is growing so fast it buys enough American products and services to support the jobs of 3 million of your countrymen and women back home in the United States.

Make no mistake, there is still a threat that ward could return. Without you, the stability and prosperity of Asia could be in danger, and, therefore, so could America's. Old rivalries could break out again. A rogue state could get the wrong idea. A changing region could become unstable. But with you here, Asia is more secure, and so is America. Halfway around the world, your loved ones are safer because you are here at your stations, keeping the peace in a time of change and challenge.

I applaud the job you have done in building an alliance with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. And I salute the officers and crew of the Myoko who honor us with their presence here today. (Applause.)

Fifty years ago no one would have believed that an American carrier and a Japanese cruiser could be berthed side by side, that our forces would work shoulder to shoulder day in and day out. But today, Prime Minister Hashimoto and I have signed a Joint Security Declaration to strengthen our alliance and prepare it for the challenges of the 21st century -- together. We can do this because you are here, backing our commitments with your power.

America won the Cold War, but now we are about the business of securing the peace, thanks to your dedication and your excellence. (Applause.) Let me say that I am well aware that we see that excellence every day in so many ways -- here, from the pilots and everyone on the flight deck to the boiler technicians, from the mess cooks to the storekeepers, to the officers on the bridge. It takes every single one of you, working together as a team, to keep this ship on the flight line, to land some of the best aircraft in the world on what looks to their pilots like a postage stamp in the sea.

Your teamwork has notched record after record, including the mark among active ships for arrested landings -- 343,000 of them. Congratulations. (Applause.) As someone said to me as the helicopter was setting down, that's a lot of nonskid. (Laughter.)

As the oldest ship in the Navy, you do fly this remarkable ensign behind me that says, "Don't Tread On Me." And as was said earlier in the introduction by the Admiral, this week, this very week is the 221st anniversary of the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington and Concord, the first in America's long struggle for independence. I hope you will think about that, each and every one of you, this week. I hope you will imagine what it might have been like so many years ago, over 200 years ago, for those young people embarking on their struggle, risking their lives for what was then nothing more than a dream.

Now, more than 200 years later, you represent in your uniforms the oldest democracy in human history. Thanks to you and those who came before you, your skill and professionalism, not only does the oldest fighting ship in the fleet inspire the same respect as we have for our early patriots, but thanks to you and the people who came before you, we are still here.

As you keep it that way, on freedom's flagship, remember that: 221 years of people like you have made America what it is today and make possible this remarkable partnership we celebrate with the Japanese, and make possible the guarantee of freedom for your children and your grandchildren and people throughout the world. I thank you for that. (Applause.)

I also want to say a special word of thanks to the families of the 7th Fleet for their support. Our military families bear such a heavy burden of America's leadership, especially those stationed at Yokosuka and other bases so far from home; those who have to cope with the extra strain of long periods when ships are at sea, when one parent has to carry the full load to run a household and raise the children. We ask so much of our families, but again and again, they deliver. Our nation is grateful to you, as well, for our security depends upon you, as well.

To the men and women of the 7th Fleet, you must know that you represent the very best of America. Over and over again, you have proved your excellence. Thanks to you, the world knows now that the United States will stand firm in Asia. Thanks to you, we can make this new Security Declaration with Japan. And everybody knows that we mean it and that we can mean it. We can stand firm for peace and security, for democracy and freedom, for a good and decent future for the children of this region and the children of the United States -- thanks to you.

Our nation is in your debt now and forever. God bless you and God bless America. (Applause.)

END 3:45 P.M. (L)