Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Foley received the top military award for civilians Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Defense for leadership in security affairs while he was the envoy to Tokyo from 1997 to 2001.

In an award ceremony at the ambassador’s residence in Tokyo, Maj. Gen. Gary Hughey, deputy commander of U.S. forces in Japan, awarded Foley the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service for his “unprecedented leadership and visionary guidance to the Department of Defense elements within Japan.”

A certificate signed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was given to Foley. It highlights his leadership during the 2000 Group of Eight summit in Okinawa.

“I’m deeply honored by this award,” Foley said.

“During the time I had the opportunity to serve in Japan, I came to have enormous respect for the commitment, dedication and service of the U.S. military serving in Japan and of the continued strength and resilience and fundamental importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance . . . particularly in security aspects,” he said.

Foley, 73, who has retired from public service, said he will continue to work to enhance and strengthen ties between Japan and the United States.

His successor, Howard Baker, attended the ceremony and gave a congratulatory speech.

Past recipients of the award include former President Bill Clinton, former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and movie director Steven Spielberg.

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