Ambassador William F. Hagerty
Japan National Press Club
November 17, 2017
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: Thank you Mr. Sugita, Managing Director Habu, minasama konnichiwa.
Today we’ll discuss President Trump’s trip to Japan as well as the work of my team here in Japan. If there’s a key message that I can leave you with today, it’s that the President’s trip here was a huge success. We made significant progress on security and trade issues during the visit. U.S.-Japan relations are closer than they’ve ever been before. I’m very optimistic about the future of our relationship.
First I’d like to go over the President’s goals and accomplishments during his trip to Asia. The overarching objectives for the entire trip were, first, to strengthen international resolve to denuclearize North Korea. The President and Prime Minister Abe renewed their commitment to address unprecedented security challenges from North Korea. The President underscored his commitment to make available advanced defensive equipment as Japan expands its defense capabilities. The President pledged to protect the people of Japan as emphasized in remarks to American and Japanese troops at Yokota Air Base and again at his press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. And on a related note, the President and the First Lady met with families of Japanese nationals abducted by the North Korean regime.
The second objective of the trip: To promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The United States and Japan reaffirmed their mutual commitment to promoting prosperity and development of the Indo-Pacific region by fostering a secure environment and developing high standards. I was particularly pleased to see an initiative that I’ve been championing since January take a major step forward at my residence on November 7 when the Overseas Private Investment Corporation signed a memorandum of understanding with Japanese partners to offer high-quality U.S. and Japanese infrastructure investment alternatives throughout the Indo-Pacific region. The United States and Japan launched the Japan-United States Strategic Energy Partnership to promote universal access to affordable and reliable energy in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. On November 6, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry signed a memorandum of cooperation to help bring high-quality energy infrastructure solutions to the Indo-Pacific region. These are tangible deliverables – true progress in trade relations from this visit.
The third objective: To advance American prosperity and trade. President Trump promoted American prosperity and trade, including new investments from this region that will employ thousands of American workers. Despite some media reports, trade was a major topic during the visit and it will remain so in future senior-level engagements. President Trump and Prime Minister Abe reaffirmed their commitment to fostering strong domestic, demand-driven growth as well as fair and reciprocal trade practices that result in more balanced trade. The President delivered clear public messages on the need for balanced trade and greater market access commitments from Japan. How do we get there? They discussed a full range of trade options, including an FTA. The two leaders affirmed their commitment to continuing space cooperation at the Second International Space Exploration Forum and at the next Comprehensive Space Dialogue. The two leaders committed to enhancing cyber cooperation to counter threats from increasingly harmful and disruptive activities in cyberspace.
Next, I’d like to touch on a few highlights from the President’s visit to Japan and give you a bit of behind-the-scenes perspective on how it all went. But before discussing the details of the President’s trip, I’d like to first touch on Ivanka Trump’s visit to Japan in the days immediately prior to the President’s arrival. Ivanka was very well received by both Prime Minister Abe and the Japanese public. She was the keynote speaker at the WAW conference and delivered a very meaningful speech. My two daughters were in attendance at the speech and were deeply inspired by Ivanka’s message. Her performance primed the pump for the President’s trip in the hearts and the minds of the Japanese people
On Day 1 of the President’s trip, the President thanked our U.S. military and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces troops at Yokota Air Base. In his remarks, the President highlighted our unwavering commitment to the alliance and to the defense of Japan.
As many of you know, a game of golf was involved. The game between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump highlighted an unparalleled rapport between the two leaders. They were joined by professional golfer Matsuyama-san. The President could not have been more complimentary of this fine athlete from Japan, nor more optimistic about his future.
Meanwhile, Mikimoto hosted a terrific cultural event for the First Lady. The First Lady, Mrs. Abe, Mrs. Sasae, the wife of the Japan ambassador to the United States, and my wife Chrissy had tea and learned about Japan’s wonderful pearl tradition. They met Ama pearl divers who explained the innovative history of Japan’s pearl industry.
On Day 2 we started with the business leaders events at my residence. The event was a smashing success. The President expressed tremendous optimism about the U.S. market. He talked about the regulatory reform that is underway in the United States. He discussed his optimism for corporate tax reform that is taking place right now in the U.S. Congress, and he emphasized the fact that the U.S. is a growing and open market – in fact the most attractive market in the world for Japanese companies to invest in.
The President personally acknowledged several Japanese CEOs who have made significant investments in the United States. Indeed, Japanese companies have made over $400 billion worth of investment in the United States, growing at an annual rate of 9% and employing some 850,000 American workers. Japanese companies are doing well in the United States, generating high returns for their shareholders and generating growth in their industry.
In addition, a number of U.S. companies doing business in Japan were also present. We will see more job creation by U.S. companies doing business here in Japan.
The President highlighted trade concerns as well. We have had a persistent trade deficit with Japan. We must work together to open the Japanese market more. We must preserve Japan’s continued role as a global partner in support of innovation in pharmaceuticals and medical devices at a time when many countries are freeloading on the support that our two nations provide to healthcare research and development, and as an ally against nations that abuse global markets and compete unfairly.
The President and the First Lady then went to the Imperial Palace, where they had a very pleasant meeting with Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan. Later at Akasaka Palace, we had a great luncheon with Prime Minister Abe followed by a bilateral meeting.
The President, the First Lady, and I then joined families of North Korean abductees. We listened to the families’ painful stories. It highlighted the DPRK’s tremendous disrespect for human rights. In fact, Wednesday of this week was the 40th anniversary of the kidnapping of Megumi Yokota, a tragic event that haunts the minds of us all.
That evening, the Prime Minister hosted a banquet at Akasaka Palace. The Prime Minister and Mrs. Abe were gracious hosts. There was a broad spectrum of guests who are leaders in Japan’s business, cultural, and political sectors. The President and First Lady had a delightful time with guests that included Deputy Prime Minister Aso, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga, Foreign Minister Kono, Defense Minister Onodera, National Security Adviser Yachi, and many others.
Perhaps the most fun was professional golfer Isao Aoki. We enjoyed hearing about his famous showdown with Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 U.S. Open. The President described that showdown as “the most incredible display of putting skills ever.”
Finally, in the President’s last words to me as he boarded Air Force One, he said, “You have a tremendous opportunity here in Japan. Make sure you realize it.”
And now I’d like to summarize the results from the rest of the President’s trip in Asia. First, investing in American workers. During his trip to Asia, President Trump secured new projects and deals that will bring investment back to America, employing more American workers.
Second, he emphasized fair and reciprocal trade. President Trump advanced fair trade between the United States and its partners in Asia working to end years of one-sided and unbalanced trade that has left too many Americans behind.
Third, denuclearizing North Korea. President Trump prioritized the global maximum pressure campaign against North Korea encouraging all responsible nations to work to compel the North Korean regime to denuclearize.
Fourth, promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. President Trump’s trip to five Asian nations strengthened existing relations and advanced high standards that will enable regional development and prosperity.
Fifth, a U.S. commitment to Asia. President Trump attended three summits, reaffirming and strengthening the United States’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.
Now that I’ve touched on the President’s trip to Asia – a milestone in our relations in Asia – I’d like to turn to my Embassy team’s ongoing work to enhance our relationship here in Japan. The President has directed me to focus our efforts in three primary zones: First, strengthening the alliance between the U.S. and Japan. The unshakeable U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and freedom in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. commitment to defend Japan through the full range of U.S. military capabilities is unwavering. Amid an increasingly difficult security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, the United States will strengthen its presence in this region, and Japan will assume larger roles and responsibilities in the alliance. In pursuit of this goal, I have personal and frequent interactions with Japan’s political and military leadership, and I can assure you that our relations are very strong.
I just returned from Okinawa, which deepened my appreciation for Okinawa’s contributions to greater regional security.
A key goal of this objective is enhancing Japan’s capabilities and interoperability while reducing the administrative complexity that sometimes slows the adoption of the latest defense technologies.
Our second objective: Deepening bilateral economic ties. Under President Trump, the United States is deeply committed to strengthening our economic ties with Japan. For more than 70 years, our nations have been partners in commerce, bringing our peoples together and generating growth and prosperity for generations of both our nations.
Since my arrival, we have become even more deeply engaged in the bilateral economic dialogue led by Vice President Pence and Deputy Prime Minister Aso. Last month, I was in Washington for the second round of this dialog. And last week, I joined the President in detailed discussions with Prime Minister Abe to enhance our economic ties and to address a persistent trade deficit. We discussed the full range of trade options, including an FTA.
Third, our objective is to develop people-to-people connections. The U.S.-Japan alliance and our broader relationship are rooted in and sustained by deep bonds between our citizens. Our people-to-people ties undergird and strengthen our entire bilateral relationship.
This includes sports diplomacy. My experience leading an effort to acquire a Major League Soccer team in my hometown of Nashville underscored for me the way a shared love for sport can bring a community together. One of our first events upon my arrival was with the PGA champions’ tour. Our shared love for the sport of golf reminds us all of our close bonds between the U.S. and Japan.
I also look forward to culinary diplomacy. For example, I’m currently planning a U.S.-Japan whiskey tasting event. We’re going to invite representatives from our nations’ top whiskey makers to get together and celebrate our mutual love of whiskey.
Also, we continue to advocate and support student exchanges between the U.S. and Japan.
I look forward to working with you and the people of Japan to accomplish our shared goals. I think the President’s visit puts us in a great spot to make more progress on each of these key objectives – security, trade, and people-to-people relations.
Here’s the bottom line: During his successful visit to Japan, the President strengthened his close relationship with Prime Minister Abe and moved the relationship forward on both security and trade issues. His long trip to East Asia shows that this region is vital to United States policy. My experience so far in Japan tells me that our relationship is “banjyaku.”
I’m very optimistic about the future of our relationship, and I look forward to working with the press to tell the story of this relationship, one of the most important in the world, to the Japanese public.
Thank you very much. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
MODERATOR: (via interpreter) Thank you, Ambassador Hagerty. Very forward looking speech and I felt that we can be optimistic about the future of the U.S.-Japan relationship. I already have some cards in front of me, so I would like to pick up some of the most frequent questions, common questions. First, about North Korea, which was the focus of the President’s visit. Recently, from the beginning of September, North Korea has been refraining from conducting additional missile launches or nuclear tests, and President Trump visited Japan, and I thought that he sent a very strong message. Today a Chinese Communist Party envoy is visiting Pyongyang by coincidence so the President sent a strong message to North Korea. How is the situation with the DPRK recently? Is the U.S. going to hold dialogue with the DPRK moving forward? Is that the situation? I would very much appreciate your observations. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: Thank you, Sugita-san. The situation with North Korea remains the same from a policy perspective. Our goal and our intent is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The President’s successful trip here made great strides in advancing that goal. First, stopping in Japan, he demonstrated our strong alliance. Together he and Prime Minister Abe underscored our desire to see the Korean Peninsula denuclearized and to reach out to other nations to achieve their assistance in enforcing the UN security sanctions. As we move forward, I’ve noticed the behavior of North Korea. They’ve been silent, but I’m not willing to read anything into that behavior other than the fact that our goal remains the same. I, too, am optimistic about the Chinese envoy making the trip to Pyongyang, but again we must wait and see what happens. Our goal though is to increase the pressure on the Republic of North Korea, to increase the international resolve, to have them stop their behavior, to stop their aggressive provocations, and to return to the table in a mean and a manner that will make negotiations actually possible.
MODERATOR: (via interpreter) Thank you. The second question was actually included – the topic was included in your speech. It’s about U.S.-Japan trade issues. I think there are two parts to this. One is that NAFTA renegotiation is going on and Japanese companies operating in Mexico – there are quite a few Japanese companies there – so depending on the situation of NAFTA renegotiation, they may see results that negatively impact these Japanese companies, so there are some concerns there. In the renegotiation process, are you considering the interests of Japanese and other foreign countries as well? The second question is a U.S.-Japan FTA. TPP 11 is getting closer to the final agreement and we see some issues regarding a U.S.-Japan FTA. We don’t have a very bright focus about that. Prime Minister Abe and President Trump I’m sure had discussions and I believe you were there, so what do you think about the probability of a U.S.-Japan FTA and when do you think it’s going to be possible to have such an FTA?
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: Thank you, Sugita-san. The trade issue is a complex one. I’ll begin with your question regarding NAFTA. I’ve had a number of meetings with Japanese companies that are doing business in North America and are concerned about the implications of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. I’ve spoken with them at a significant extent about the impact of a renegotiation on their supply chain. I’ve been able to carry their concerns forward directly to U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer. He understands and fully appreciates the concerns that Japanese companies have as they attempt to manage their supply chain in light of the uncertainty that the renegotiation is presenting. At the same time, I’ll emphasize that the NAFTA agreement has not worked well for the United States. Our trade deficit with both Canada and Mexico has expanded. The content rules that are being used today are outdated and do not achieve their purpose, so the President has rightfully reached in to say, “This agreement is not working for America,” and he wants to restructure it in a way that’s very positive for all parties involved. But I’m taking on a particular role to make certain that Japanese companies that are affected – that their interests are going to be heard and appreciated at the table in this agreement renegotiation.
Second, with respect to TPP 11, the President and Prime Minister Abe had significant discussions regarding trade and advancement of our mutual interests. The TPP 11 negotiations moved forward, but they moved forward without the United States. And let me be clear: The United States will not come into this agreement under the terms as they are laid out now. The President was very clear that enforcement is a significant issue for us. We are willing to negotiate with any country in the Indo-Pacific region that is willing live by and abide by high standards, but we want to make sure we do this in an environment where enforcement is clear and possible. This is why the President is focused on bilateral agreements with very high standards. So the U.S. market will not be part of the TPP 11. Frankly I think that makes it more difficult because many of the companies that participated in the TPP discussions were enticed to do so because of the access it provided to the very large and open U.S. market. But I think you’ll see us willing and ready to negotiate with Japan and with any other country, whether it be through a free trade agreement or whether it be through other mechanisms to advance our mutual interests.
With respect to the possibility of a free trade agreement with Japan, I think that that is very possible, although no timeline has been set. The President and Prime Minister did discuss this tool as a means to address some of the imbalance in our trade deficit. Frankly when I look at situations that are very imbalanced; for example, meat, which is taxed and tariffed at 50% for U.S. beef and only 28% for Australian beef, there’s an imbalance there that needs to be addressed. We have a number of other issues regarding agricultural access to this market, issues pertaining to medical and pharmaceutical innovation, issues pertaining to high standards that are being set in other areas of trade which didn’t have fair access to this market. And I think we’re going to made significant progress.
MODERATOR: (via interpreter) Thank you. Let me ask another question. The President and Prime Minister Abe had a joint press conference and when speaking of the trade deficit, the President mentioned about the possibility of Japan purchasing weapons massively so that we can solve the trade deficit problem. So what kind of specific weapons systems did the President have in his mind? I think Japan has its plan and is purchasing equipment as needed, as planned.
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: Thank you. I appreciate your raising that question, Sugita-san, because there may be a bit of confusion around the President’s goal. The President has stated very clearly and Prime Minister Abe has agreed with the President that our overarching goal is to increase Japan’s capability and interoperability. Our overarching goal is one for security and defense, not to repair the trade deficit. And their goal is to make certain that more advanced technology is available to Japan and that as that technology is implemented, it’s done in a manner that increases our interoperability and, frankly, our effectiveness at protecting Japan and this region. Some byproduct of that may impact the trade deficit in a positive way, that’s true, but that is not the goal. The goal is to increase our effectiveness from a national security standpoint and both a technology standpoint and an interoperability standpoint, and on that the two leaders agree.
MODERATOR: (via interpreter) Now I would like to take additional questions from the floor. Our time is limited so please try to be concise with your questions. Please state your name and affiliation. I would like to limit to one question per person. Mr. Kanehira?
QUESTION: (via interpreter) Kanehira from TBS. Ambassador, you said our relationship is “banjyaku,” but there are some people from some prefecture that are opposed to this view. It’s related to the bases in Okinawa. So you’re trying to build a new base facility in Henoko, but people have been opposing for such a long time so strongly. So did you expect that? They don’t want to hear that Henoko is the only option. Do you think this kind of opposition might negatively affect the relationship between the U.S. military and Okinawa?
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: Thank you for your question, Kanehira–san. I visited Okinawa earlier this week. That’s my second visit in the three months that I’ve been here thus far. In my time in Okinawa, I developed a great appreciation for the contributions that the Okinawan community makes to the greater security of this region and I appreciate that, the American military appreciates that, the President and I’m certain the Prime Minister appreciate that as well. I also on Monday went up to Henoko to tour the area that you’re discussing because while I was aware of it, it was my first opportunity to see it, and it was clear to me that there are issues surrounding the Futenma location. The population has grown significantly around that area. The only solution to this date that has been negotiated has been relocating to the area of Camp Schwab near Henoko, so that option is the only one that is being pursued today between the central government of Japan, the Okinawan citizens, and the U.S. military. As I was there, I noted that significant progress was being made and as I am very well aware after visiting Futenma, replacement of that facility is necessary. So I look forward to making more progress in Okinawa, working closely with the citizens there, and doing so in a manner that minimizes the disruption or impact, but also maintains our readiness, which is absolutely critical particularly at a time like this when the North Korean regime is putting so much pressure on national security in the region. Thank you.
QUESTION: Ambassador Hagerty, thank you so much for taking my question. I’m Motoko Rich for the New York Times. On the issue of the FTA, can you tell us a little bit more since you were in the room how the Abe administration has responded to that suggestion? Our understanding is that the Japanese are not interested in a bilateral FTA.
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: The discussion was very frank and very straightforward. The overarching objective is to reduce the trade deficit that’s been persistent for decades. An FTA is one of the tools that we may use to address that and I think the Abe administration has been very focused on the TPP 11 negotiations right now. That’s understandable. But at the same time, we are very interested in reducing our trade deficit and if an FTA is one of the aspects that needs to be addressed, we will move in that direction. There are also other things that we talked about that could be addressed that don’t require an FTA, so you’ll see as the bilateral economic dialogue evolves – the one that’s being led by Vice President Pence and Deputy Prime Minister Aso – that there’ll be a number of items discussed. FTA will be one of those, particularly to address some of the persistent issues in the agricultural sector. But we’ll also be talking about areas where we can cooperate on energy export and delivery, on infrastructure development in the region more broadly. There are a number of elements that we will look upon, but we are going to be focused in every way to not only extend and deepen our bilateral economic ties but to also address this persistent trade deficit. Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m Toshi Ogata with the Asahi Shimbun. Thank you very for your earlier interview with my paper. I have two questions, but actually one is on North Korea, the other one is a follow-up question on earlier Sugita-san’s question. First of all, on North Korea I’d like to ask, did President Trump change his tone on North Korea recently? Because on his way from Hawaii to Tokyo, Yokota, when he was asked about North Korea, he said North Korean people are great, industrious, and warmer than anybody thinks, and at the same time, he said he hoped it will all work out. He used that kind of expression at the press conference in Tokyo as well. So compared to his earlier rhetoric, it seems to me he changed his tone on North Korea – more emphasis on the diplomatic efforts. And now we are seeing China’s announcement about sending a special envoy to North Korea. So you were with him during his stay, can you give us your sense on his change of tone? And the second question is about the military purchase you touched upon already. On Wednesday, President Trump said in the White House that, “Japan also committed to shouldering more of the burden of common defense by reimbursing costs borne by American taxpayers, as well as making deep investments in Japan’s own military. This will include purchases of U.S. advanced capabilities – from jet fighters to missile defense systems worth many, many billions of dollars.” So was there a new element of agreement during the meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Abe, I mean a larger agreement, rather than previously agreed upon purchases such as Aegis Ashore missile defense system or F-35 fighters and SM-3 Block 2A? So I just wanted to make sure if there was any new element on top of the previously agreed military purchase at the meeting between the two.
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: Thank you. To address your first question regarding the President’s tone on North Korea, the President has been clear – I think exceedingly clear – that our overarching objective is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. What he was able to do with Prime Minister Abe was actually solidify support for that throughout the region. We’ve seen more and more countries come to our point of view in terms of increasing sanctions on the North Korean regime and in terms of enforcing sanctions on the regime. Japan joined us in terms of isolating entities that have been doing business with North Korea and sanctioning them. That happened just on this trip. I think what you’re hearing is the President is looking to put increased pressure on this regime to come around to a more normalized way of dealing with the world. And if they are able to do that, the President is very open-minded.
His concern is not with the North Korean people – he feels for the North Korean people. His concern is with the regime that continues to violate human rights, that continues to try to threaten and hold the world hostage as it pursues a nuclear capability. That is unacceptable. The President has said this; Prime Minister Abe has said this; President Xi has now said this too. So I think what we’re seeing is the full spectrum of emotion here, where the President and his colleagues are being very stern with North Korea, but at the same time letting the world know that they care for the people of North Korea. So I think that it may be a more complete view of the President’s perspective rather than a shift.
And with respect to trade – and I’ll sort of go back to Sugita-san’s question too – the discussions – and I was in those discussions – the discussions have far more to do with our security. And the discussions really focused on the principle, not on specific weapons platforms, but on the principle of making more U.S. advanced technology available to Japan.
Two: We also discussed reforming the process and procedures to make that equipment available to Japan. Today the process is too cumbersome, both on the Japan side and on the American side. The President charged me and our team with finding ways to improve the processes as well so that new technologies can become available more rapidly.
Now, as a side benefit of that, there may be a positive impact on the trade deficit, but I’ll assure you that’s not the primary reason for this move. Thank you.
QUESTION: Tim Kelly from Reuters. Actually I’d just like to follow up on that question and your response. You talked about making more advanced technology available to Japan. I can think of one specific example where Japan wants U.S. technology that so far has not been made available to Japan, and that would be the new radar system for the Aegis system, SPY-6. This is going to be brought out by the U.S. in 2020, I think. Japan wants this for its Aegis Ashore batteries when it builds those, and also for its Aegis ships. However, there hasn’t been any commitment from the U.S. side on this. Would that be one example of where the U.S. can provide advanced technology to Japan?
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: Thank you for your question Mr. Kelly. As I mentioned in the previous question, the discussion between the President and the Prime Minister was held in principle. We did not discuss specific platforms or specific weapons systems that would be made available. But the overarching goal is to make more advanced technology available to Japan. So I certainly would not rule out the request that you made. But that was not a specific topic of discussion.
QUESTION: (via interpreter) My name is Kidera from Nikkei newspaper. Two questions – first on an FTA: During the summit, how much and how specifically did they discuss about an FTA? Did they specifically use the term FTA?
Another question is about Ambassador Hagerty’s interaction with media – are you going to have this kind of press conference in the future on a regular basis perhaps? So I would like to learn your plan for media interaction.
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: Thank you very much for that question. First, with respect to the discussions between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump on trade, we discussed a full range of tools that can be used to address the trade deficit, including a free trade agreement.
Second, with respect to the frequency of my interaction with media, and certainly with a large and respected group like this, I can only hope that I do well today, and I think we’ll see how this turns out. But I look forward to that, assuming that I have not done too poorly today in dispensing with my duties. But I appreciate the role that the media plays.
I think that we have a unique opportunity before us, the U.S. and Japan, and I’m going to be working every day with my team to try to advance our relations together. We have unique threats in the region, but we see that threat the same. We also have strong opportunities – I think the best opportunity I’ve seen in my lifetime – to deepen economic ties between the U.S. and Japan. Many of you know I lived here more than 25 years ago, and when I look back on that time, our trade relations were very different – I think much more friction in those times. Today I feel a sense of collaboration. I think that the viewpoint that both Prime Minister Abe and President Trump have expressed for the broader Indo-Pacific region creates a great opportunity for us to partner as leaders and advance our interests in this entire region that encompasses more than half of the world’s population.
I see the leadership role of the U.S. and Japan to be unique and imperative to freedom, and I think the media can help us with this. I think you can help us tell the story. I may not always get it right. We may make mistakes along the way, but our direction is something that I think will be very clear. And I think you can help sometimes to inform me when we’re not following our direction exactly or we may need to improve. But I hope that you’ll understand that from the bottom of my heart and from the perspective of my entire team at U.S. Mission Japan, we are trying to advance our joint interest, and I think we have a tremendous opportunity to do so.
QUESTION: (via interpreter) Democracy Times, which is an Internet media – my name is Yamada. When President Trump arrived in Japan, why did he use Yokota Air Base? He was not a state guest, but he still met with our Emperor, and he has to form friendly relations with Japan. But why did he not use Haneda, which is our main gateway, and why did he fly into Yokota and make a speech in front of American troops – is this part of “America First”? I know there are some security concerns as well, so did you not trust Japanese police and were concerned about the security?
Some Japanese people still remember about the occupation era, and some people still have mixed feelings, so was it the White House decision to use Yokota? Why is that? If the Ambassador could share this story, I would very much appreciate it.
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: Thank you. The decision to use Yokota was something that I very much personally support. The reason has nothing to do with security or any sort of distrust for the police operations here. In fact, I want to extend my thanks to the metropolitan police here and special police forces – they did an outstanding job protecting the President and supporting our visit. It had something to do with the fact that he needed to meet with American troops and Japan’s Self Defense Forces troops – both were present at Yokota. And it was a very deliberate meeting.
This year we’ve lost 20 American lives in the preparation for the defense and protection of Japan and this region. We lost 10 sailors on the USS McCain. I was there when their remains were returned. I was with their families as they mourned and cried. We lost seven more on the USS Fitzgerald. And we lost three in an Osprey accident. In addition, the Japan Self-Defense Forces have lost its members too this year. So both sides have contributed the ultimate sacrifice to preparation to protect and defend this region. And the President wanted to make it known to them that their efforts are appreciated. That’s why it was the first stop. It was to show our appreciation for the men and women who are risking their lives every day to protect this region – both American troops and Japan Self-Defense Forces. That was the reason for the choice of Yokota.
MODERATOR: (via interpreter) Thank you very much, Ambassador, especially for taking a very wide variety of questions and responding very sincerely and in a candid manner, and responding very thoroughly. We understand that you are very forward-leaning with your interaction with the media. Thank you for coming to the National Press Club today and I hope that we’ll have more opportunities in the future so that we can deepen and strengthen our relationship and coordination. In our holding room, we asked the Ambassador to write a message in our guestbook, which reflects a very optimistic view on U.S.-Japan relations. Would you like to add some comments, Ambassador, regarding this message?
AMBASSADOR HAGERTY: (regarding the guestbook) I would be honored to do that, Sugita-san. Shall I read that? What this says is that I’m honored to join you here today and share some inspiring words from a former U.S. president. Here’s the quote: “We must dare to be great, and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” That’s from Teddy Roosevelt, the former United States President. And this is the message that I try to convey to my team every day. We must work hard. We will sacrifice. And I encourage the highest amount of courage as we move forward, as we lean into this relationship, and as we realize the opportunity that the President challenged me to realize in Japan. I’m very optimistic, and I hope this quote conveys my optimism that I think U.S.-Japan relations have never been at a higher point and that we can do more together as leaders in the Indo-Pacific region to advance our mutual goals than ever before.