On this day in 1983, Ronald Reagan became the first U.S. president to address the Japanese Parliament, known as the Diet. On the second day of his visit to Tokyo, Reagan spoke to some 700 parliamentarians a generation after U.S. bombers had left the island nation in ruins.
In his 3,400-word speech, the president pledged to work toward the control and elimination of nuclear weapons. These remarks elicited the loudest applause from his audience, mindful of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki that hastened the Japanese surrender in 1945, ending World War II.
“We understand the terrible trauma of human suffering,” Reagan said. “I have lived through four wars in my lifetime. So, I speak not just as president of the United States, but also as a husband, a father and as a grandfather. I believe there can be only one policy for preserving our precious civilization in this modern age. A nuclear war can never be won and must never be fought.”
“The only value in possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they can’t be used ever,” he continued. “I know I speak for people everywhere when I say our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.
“Arms control must mean arms reductions. America is doing its part. As I pledged to the United Nations less than two months ago, the United States will accept any equitable, verifiable agreement that stabilizes forces at lower levels than currently exist. We want significant reductions, and we’re willing to compromise.”
“Harmony is a treasured hallmark of Japanese civilization, and this has always been pleasing to Americans.” Reagan also observed, adding: “Harmony requires differences to be joined in pursuit of higher ideals, many of which we share. When former President Ulysses S. Grant visited here in 1878, he discovered Japan is a land of enchantment.
“During his stay, he met with the emperor, and their discussion turned to democracy, the pressing issue of the day. President Grant observed that governments are always more stable and nations more prosperous when they truly represent their people.”
After addressing the Diet, Reagan and his wife, Nancy, flew to the country retreat of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, some 36 miles away. In congratulating him, Nakasone said: “I’ve never seen such admiration of a speech on the part of the people.”
Reagan also visited the demilitarized zone in South Korea. The trip to Tokyo and Seoul drew the ire of the Soviet Union.
“Reagan’s visit has confirmed that the principles, methods and objectives of the American policy in the eastern part of the Asian continent as well as in other regions of the world are shaped not so much by the Department of State, which is concerned with U.S. foreign policy, as by the Pentagon,” said the armed forces newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda.