THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Hillary and I are deeply saddened by the death of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. I want to extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Chizuko, his family, and his nation.
Japan has lost a strong and vibrant leader. The United States has lost one of our closest friends.
I had the honor of meeting with Prime Minister Obuchi several times after he became Prime Minister in 1998. I visited him in Tokyo that fall, and he came to Washington for a memorable visit in May 1999. In all our meetings, I was impressed by his effective statesmanship and his personal warmth. He believed ardently, as I do, in a U.S.-Japanese partnership built upon shared values and mutual respect. The personal friendship he and I forged helped us act on that belief, and strengthened our desire to address all the issues affecting our two countries in a spirit of true friendship. The bonsai tree he gave me, and which he tended himself, is a living symbol of our alliance.
The job of Prime Minister is never easy, but Keizo Obuchi met every challenge with courage and confidence. He embodied before the world the famous Japanese virtues of honor, loyalty, and determination. He became known for imitating the art and skill of an orchestra conductor in finding harmony among people of different views. From his first days in office, he took swift steps to meet the economic challenges facing Japan, and he also gave strong support to the cause of peace -- from Kosovo to East Timor. Prime Minister Obuchi worked hard in countless ways to strengthen our alliance, and to place it on a new foundation for the 21st century. The friendship between our peoples remains the cornerstone of stability in East Asia, and was greatly strengthened by his lifetime of building bridges between us.
Prime Minister Obuchi touched the hearts of Americans in simple, human ways: when he threw out what he called "an unhittable pitch" to Sammy Sosa; when he reminded us of the honor he felt meeting Robert Kennedy as young man, when he told us how he drew from that meeting new inspiration for the noble privilege of serving a great people.
On behalf of all Americans, I am grateful for Prime Minister Obuchi's dedicated, principled public service, and for all he did to build for us a brighter future. I will work closely with Prime Minister Mori to continue our close cooperation with Japan.