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Ambassador Hagerty vows to promote Japan-U.S. grassroots exchanges

U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty, now visiting Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture, gave an exclusive interview to the Gifu Shimbun on Feb. 11. Gifu Shimbun President Hiroshi Usui asked the ambassador about U.S. policy toward North Korea and the ambassador’s missions, among others. The questions and answers are as follows:


Question: The PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games are drawing political attention. What’s your view concerning U.S. policy toward North Korea after the Olympics?


Ambassador Hagerty: There is no change in our policy of maximizing pressure on North Korea. North Korea has shown no evidence of walking back from its illegal nuclear development.


Q: So do you think the use of military force is necessary if diplomatic negotiations and sanctions fail?


Hagerty:  I think the most effective approach is a strong military alternative underpinning diplomatic negotiations. I think this is most effective way. It was proved by North Korea, which moved first by participating in the Olympics amid increasing pressure. It resulted from economic and diplomatic policies we implemented even while we have that ability [to carry out the fallback option]. But the North’s participation in the Olympics must not conceal its series of its actions behind the banner of Olympics — nuclear development, wrong treatment of its people, and the fact that it has become a rogue state in this region — and we will not tolerate them.


Q: One year has now passed since President Donald Trump was sworn in. How would you evaluate the Trump administration?


Hagerty: President Trump has been putting in a great deal of effort to turn the U.S. economy around. Specifically, he has begun building a business environment by streamlining laws and regulations. He has also launched a tax reform on the largest scale ever since the Reagan administration. Furthermore, he has reduced the corporate tax rate to enhance the United States’ international competitiveness. The most important thing of all is that he has given business owners in the business community confidence.


Q: The U.S. stock market has been fluctuating violently since the beginning of this month.


Hagerty: These fluctuations are usual, so I’m not surprised at all. The basic economy is solid. Gross domestic product (GDP) has risen 3%.


Q: How would you describe President Trump’s personality?


Hagerty: He is a very strong leader. The Trump administration gives first consideration to Japan. In our Indo-Pacific strategy, Japan is the cornerstone of prosperity and peace in the peacebuilding initiative.


Q: What is your mission as U.S. ambassador to Japan?


Hagerty: There are three missions — First is to enhance our bilateral alliance with Japan for security. Second is to deepen Japan-U.S. economic relations. And third is to deepen grassroots exchanges.


Q: What is your impression of Gifu Prefecture?


Hagerty: The traditional buildings and snowscape were breathtakingly beautiful. Many American tourists will also come to Japan ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. I want to encourage them to visit not only Tokyo but also Gifu Prefecture.


Q: Will you give a message for the people of Gifu Prefecture?


Hagerty: I felt Gifu Prefecture has a unique strength mixed with the past and the future. I hope they will retain it.

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