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Interview with Asst. Sec. Russel: Obama’s “affection” for Japan behind good bilateral ties

Washington, Dec. 29 (Jiji Press)–Daniel Russel, a U.S. government expert on Japan, has cited an “affection” President Barack Obama has for Japan as a factor behind the improvement of Japan-U.S. relations over the president’s eight-year term.

“President Obama has had a particular affection for Japan…ever since he was six years old,” when he visited the country for the first time, Russel, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in a recent interview.

Looking back on Obama’s visit to Japan in November 2010, Russel noted that Obama took the time to revisit Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, and sit down to eat “matcha” green tea ice cream there.

That was “symbolic of the special feeling he has for Japan,” said Russel, who has worked in Japan as a diplomat for many years and has been involved in the Obama administration’s Asia strategies.

“But it’s not merely sentimental,” Russel stressed. “He always recognized that Japan was a strong democracy and close ally, and that as a result, it is important for us to ensure that our policies begin with our friends.”

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