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American ambassador Hagerty looks back on memorable, rewarding first year in Japan

U.S. Ambassador to Japan William F. Hagerty

One year has passed since I arrived to assume my role as Ambassador of the United States to Japan. The exceptional honor of serving as President Donald Trump's senior representative came ever clearer as I traversed the process of my confirmation hearing at the U.S. Senate, my swearing in by Vice President Mike Pence at the White House, and my family's arrival at Narita Airport. When I presented my credentials to the Emperor one year ago today, the full weight of the responsibility was crystal clear. It was that moment I began serving as a steward of the most important relationship enjoyed by any two countries in the modern world.

    For my family, it was the start of an amazing journey of rich cultural experiences with new friends that will forever change their lives. For me, it was a homecoming -- reawakening wonderful memories of working here in Japan more than two decades ago. Together, my family and I are embracing Japan with a clear sense of opportunity for our two nations and the region.

    My optimism for our future together is based upon the strength of the important connections that unite us. President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have forged a great working relationship, and -- more importantly -- also a close personal bond. We saw that bond firsthand when the president toured Asia last November and made Japan his first stop. Over the year, Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and other Cabinet members have also visited Japan. These engagements deepen our partnership at a very personal level. Multiple presidential summits and discussions throughout the year have reinforced the special bond and unshakeable alliance between our two countries.

    Our partnership is achieving major progress in addressing the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program. Shortly after I arrived last year, North Korea was launching missiles over parts of Japan. Today, we see an opening to make the world safer and more secure. We will not falter in our resolve to bring about the final, fully-verified dismantling of all North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction programs, as agreed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. We could not have a better partner than Japan to help realize this critical goal.

    As the president and I have assured Prime Minister Abe, the United States will continue to press for the return of all Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. I have met with the families of these abductees in my home, and the president heard their tragic stories when he visited last November. We will continue to do our utmost to bring about their return.

    Over this past year, the United States and Japan have together tackled some of the world's biggest issues, including cybersecurity, counterterrorism, intellectual property rights, women's entrepreneurship, and space exploration. We are seeking new opportunities to work more closely and efficiently together. From streamlining our processes to deliver the most advanced and interoperable defensive capabilities, to partnering with Japan to offer new infrastructure finance options to developing nations in the Indo-Pacific region, we are forging ahead in unison to ensure peace and prosperity for the region.

    Importantly, our companies are making key investment decisions that further our economic prosperity. Japanese companies continue to be leaders in investing in the United States, recognizing that President Trump's historic tax cuts, regulatory streamlining, and support for economic freedoms are yielding record-setting opportunities for growth. We celebrate the ongoing flow of Japanese investment to the United States. As American companies are, by far, the largest investors in Japan, we are actively encouraging more U.S. companies to consider further investment in Japan to further build on this strong foundation going forward.

    Deepening our people-to-people ties has been one of my top priorities as ambassador. Throughout the year, I traveled all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. My family and I have trekked the Nakasendo and enjoyed the amazing cuisine of various regions. Our visits to some of the world's most beautiful museums, shrines, temples, and gardens have deepened our understanding and appreciation for Japan's fascinating history and culture.

    One of my greatest pleasures has been meeting the young people of Japan. In June of this year, Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike and I launched our "Go for Gold" program, harnessing the excitement surrounding the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics by bringing American diplomats and Olympians to engage students and teachers at over 200 schools throughout the Tokyo area.

    In times of crisis, the United States and Japan never fail to support one another. I was deeply saddened to hear of the lives lost in the recent floods that struck Western Japan. Many American service members and Consulate personnel volunteered to help in the affected areas. We were pleased to offer a significant donation on behalf of the American people to the relief effort. Just as Japan stood with America during similar disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey last year, the United States stands with Japan now -- and in the future.

    As I begin my second year as ambassador, I look forward to bringing our trade relationship on par with our unshakeable security alliance and enduring people-to-people ties. By working together to expand trade and investment, we can strengthen economic growth and job creation in both the United States and Japan, ensuring prosperity for our citizens well into the future. I am deeply grateful to my embassy team, our American community, and our great partners here in Japan for making my first year so fruitful, memorable, and rewarding.

    (By William F. Hagerty, Ambassador of the United States of America to Japan)

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