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Kishida jokes and invokes ‘Star Trek’ as he and Biden toast US-Japan alliance at state dinner

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida joked and invoked a touchstone of American culture when he quoted from “Star Trek” at Wednesday’s state dinner and told guests at the White House that he hoped the “unwavering relationship” between his country and the US ‘would be bold’. going where no one has gone before.”

“I would like to raise a toast to our journey to the frontier of Japan-US relations with this word: go bravely,” Kishida said, quoting the iconic opening monologue from the original “Star Trek” series.

Kishida, who spoke in English, and President Joe Biden exchanged warm toasts and their nations’ decades-long alliance as top figures in business, sports and politics — including an ex-president — looked on. The two leaders, demonstrating a sincere friendship, pledged to continue uniting their countries’ interests in the face of global challenges.

Biden, 81, said he and Kishida, 66, came of age as their countries forged a strong bond in the decades after they faced off against each other in World War II.

“We both remember the choices made to forge a friendship,” Biden said. “We both remember the hard work it took to find healing.”

“Tonight,” Biden continued, “we pledge to keep going.”

While the White House served up maximum pomp and pageantry to honor its closest American ally, notable guests included Bill and Hillary Clinton, who were in familiar territory for the event. The former president declared that it “feels great” to be back before glancing appreciatively at a portrait of his wife from her first lady days on display nearby.

Guests in bright spring colors and lots of shiny dresses chatted politics and chatted business as they strolled in — that meant eclipse banter from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson (“fantastic” view in Ohio!) and an assessment of Biden’s election prospects in Wisconsin by governor. Tony Evers (looking good!).

But on a day when inflation news from Washington was less than encouraging, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell breezed past reporters without chatting. Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, wearing a purple dress, said she didn’t expect to be campaigning for Biden but still seemed optimistic about his re-election. Actor Robert De Niro provided the evening’s Hollywood quotient and seemed to channel one of his tough-guy characters when asked about his thoughts on the 2024 election.

“What do you think?” he replied.

On a warm spring evening, the Bidens stepped into the North Portico to welcome Kishida and his wife Yuko, who stood out in a flowing royal blue dress on the red carpet.

Inside, Jill Biden, wearing a beaded sapphire dress, had transformed the State Floor of the White House into what she called a “vibrant spring garden” for the evening. The floor of the famed Cross Hall was decorated with images that gave the nearly 230 guests the feeling of walking across a koi pond, a nod to fish that symbolize “friendship, peace, happiness and perseverance,” the first lady said Tuesday during a media preview. .

Head table guests for the Bidens and Kishidas included the Clintons, De Niro and Japanese pop duo Yoasobi.

Kishida raved about the splendor during his dinner toast.

“First and foremost, I am honestly speechless and speechless in front of such a large number of prominent American and Japanese guests,” he said.

A state dinner is a tool of American diplomacy, an honor bestowed sparingly and only to America’s closest allies. In Japan’s case, the president has bestowed that honor for the fifth time on an ally he sees as a cornerstone of his policy toward the Indo-Pacific region.

Kishida is on an official visit to the United States this week. The state dinner is Biden’s first this year.

The guests included many of Biden’s relatives, including granddaughter Naomi and her husband Peter Neal. Business magnates were also in attendance, including JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Labor stars Shawn Fain, president of the United Auto Workers, and David McCall, president of the United Steelworkers, were also in attendance. Both unions have endorsed Biden for re-election.

Singer and songwriter Paul Simon entertains in the State Dinging Room during a state dinner with President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House on Wednesday. Image: AP/Evan Vucci

Dry-aged rib eye steak, cherry blossoms and the music of Paul Simon were also part of the evening. Simon opened his after-dinner performance by playing guitar and singing two of his big hits, ‘Graceland’ and ‘Slip Slidin’ Away.’

Guests dined on a meal designed to highlight the “richness of spring” in Japan and the United States: an appetizer of house-cured salmon inspired by a California roll and an entree of rib eye with shishito pepper butter, fava beans, mushrooms and onions. Dessert was salted caramel pistachio cake with a matcha ganache and cherry ice cream.

Some of Jill Biden’s favorite flowers, including sweet peas, roses and peonies, were arranged alongside imported cherry blossoms to decorate a mix of round and rectangular dining tables in the East Room in shades of pink. A few flower arrangements topped out at a height of 6 feet.

Tables were set with a mix of place settings representing the administrations of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush. Butterflies made of glass and silk danced across the tables.

Simon is one of Jill Biden’s favorite artists, the White House said, adding that she selected him as a special tribute to Kishida because the prime minister also admires his music.

Simon’s career spans six decades, including performances as a duo with his childhood friend Art Garfunkel. The 82-year-old New Jersey native has earned numerous accolades, including multiple Grammys and an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Kishida is the fifth world leader Biden has honored with a state dinner, following colleagues from France, South Korea, India and Australia.

© Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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