Interviewed by Momoko Kidera, International News Department
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump will meet on April 17-18. Ahead of the Japan-U.S. summit, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun interviewed former Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Ichiro Fujisaki.
Question: Staffing at the U.S. Department of State is conspicuously slow and one-third of its senior posts remain vacant with no one named for these posts.
Fujisaki: I don’t think we need to worry much about it. When I was working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I negotiated not only with the Department of State but also with the White House, the Department of Defense, and the Office of the United States Trade Representative. When President George W. Bush visited Japan, for example, I was director general of the North American Affairs Bureau and I engaged in creating a draft schedule and talking points for the summit. But I primarily negotiated with the White House. Today, Prime Minister Abe and President Trump have a relationship in which they can phone each other.
Q: Prime Minister Abe will visit the U.S. from April 17.
Fujisaki: What is important is to directly remind President Trump to prevent the security interests of Japan and the U.S. from being “decoupled.” It’s not a good idea for the U.S. and North Korea to regulate only long-range missiles while the North retains intermediate-range missiles that can reach Japan or make a vague agreement about nuclear development. It’s essential to have North Korea accept inspections at every step of its denuclearization.
Japan also needs to make the U.S. and South Korea understand that a consultative framework without Japan, including the abduction issue, is no good. But Japan doesn’t have to be anxious even if the U.S., China, and South Korea hold summit meetings with North Korea before Japan does. North Korea can gain economic benefits only from Japan in the future.
Q: The U.S. is leaning toward unilateralism.
Fujisaki: The percentage of votes President Trump won in the presidential election is nearly equal to that of John McCain in the 2008 election, which was called a “crushing defeat” for him. The Trump administration was born not because the U.S. suddenly became inward-looking. The Trump administration is becoming even more inward-looking. But U.S. foreign policy has always vacillated like a pendulum. The best move for Japan would be to maintain a good relationship with the U.S. on a moment-to-moment basis, envisioning the possibility that the U.S. may change again.