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Tokyo, Japan

PRIME MINISTER ABE:  (As interpreted.)  The Honorable Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States of America, the Honorable Karen Pence, Second Lady of the United States of America, distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen: It is a great pleasure for me to host this banquet today to warmly welcome Vice President Pence and Mrs. Pence upon their second visit to Japan.

Prior to this banquet, I had a very productive discussion with the Vice President on various issues, including the issue of North Korea.  There is only a limited amount of time before Vice President and Mrs. Pence leave Japan, but I want you to enjoy washoku, or Japanese cuisine, tonight.  We will start serving the combination of Japanese and Western food, or (inaudible), so please feel relaxed over dinner.

As you all know, Vice President Pence has been making every effort to strengthen Japan-U.S. relations for many years, as shown by his two visits to Japan as the Governor of the state of Indiana.

One of the priorities for then-Governor Pence was inviting Japanese investment to Indiana.  Thanks to his dedication, many Japanese corporations, including prominent automakers, such as Toyota, Subaru, and Honda, have advanced into Indiana.  And in a way, we the Japanese people, and the people of Indiana are very similar; we both share diligence, discipline, and sincerity.  And I think that is one of the reasons why Japanese corporations and companies could maintain their businesses for such a long time in Indiana.

As such, there is an impressive legacy of Mr. Pence in promoting Japanese investment as the Governor of Indiana.  Mr. Pence is someone who understands how much the Japanese corporations contributed to creating the jobs on the ground in Indiana and how Japan contributed to the economy of the state of Indiana.  And now, we are so thrilled and encouraged to have him as the co-chair of the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue.

Of course, when it comes to the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue, Mr. Pence, will be a very, very tough negotiator for Japan.  But given his expertise in Japan, as well as Japanese businesses, we are so happy to have you as the co-chair of the dialogue.

The name of Indiana immediately calls to mind the Indy 500, or Indianapolis 500.  This is the world’s most competitive auto race, and so many Japanese fans have been mesmerized by the race of super-fast Formula One cars for 200 laps in the total of 500 miles.  Even many Japanese racing drivers participated in this world’s fastest race before.  And on this occasion, I invited two former racers who participated in this race.

I also need to mention the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, which will start the day after tomorrow.  Both the Vice President and I will attend the Opening Ceremony.  And then, we all hope that the Japanese and American athletes will compete in the events with each other for the medals.  For instance, in figure skating or snowboarding.

Of course, we all cheer on a different team, but whoever or whichever wins, I am ready to applaud his or her accomplishment.

Tonight, I invited distinguished leaders and guests on this special occasion.  First and foremost, we have those guests who have deep ties with the state of Indiana, where the Vice President and the Second Lady are from.  In addition, we are so lucky to have the participation of those who have been working very hard to support today’s excellent alliance between Japan and the United States.  Such guests include political and business leaders, academia, artists, and athletes.

So here’s a message that I would like to convey to our guests:  Thanks to all your hard work, we now enjoy this excellent alliance between the two states.  And I’d like to take this opportunity to ask for your further support so that we can further develop this relationship.

With that, I would like to propose a toast wishing for a great success out of the Vice President and Mrs. Pence’s visit to Japan, as well as for greater confidence of the friendship between Japan and the United States.

(A toast is offered.)  (Applause.)

VICE PRESIDENT PENCE:  Thank you, Prime Minister Abe, for those very kind words, and thank you to you and Mrs. Abe for the extraordinary hospitality on this all-too brief visit to Japan.

This is the second time that Mrs. Pence and I have had the privilege to represent the United States since the election of the Trump administration.  But if you keep saying all those nice things about Indiana, I am going to come back again and again.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank all of the honored guests who are here today, particularly those who wear the uniform of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the uniform of the United States of America.  We honor your service to both our countries.

As I said when we first met today, I bring greetings from your great friend, who’s a great friend of the people of Japan, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump, and commend you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the relationship that you have forged with our President and the way that that has strengthened the relationship and the alliance between our two countries.

I hope our presence here is a testament to the strength of the alliance between our nations — an alliance that is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Indo-Pacific.

In our discussions today, we talked about the many great opportunities that we have to advance prosperity and peace in the region, and we discussed the challenges that we face regarding North Korea.  But as we discussed privately, in our formal meeting, the opportunities and the challenges we will face together, as allies and friends, now and always.

And so tonight I offer a toast to the U.S.-Japan alliance.  May our alliance continue to be a bulwark of peace and a beacon of progress and hope.  And may it bring our nations closer together, and bring more peace and prosperity to the world.

(A toast is offered.)