The U.S. Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires ad interim Joseph Young welcomed the independent dispatch of a Maritime Self-Defense Force unit to the Middle East, which is under consideration by the Japanese government, in Tokyo on Friday.
“We would welcome a step like that by Japan. I think any kind of contribution is a very positive thing,” Young said in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun. Japan has announced its plan not to participate in the maritime security initiative proposed by the United States.
In relation to this, Young said: “I think there’s still a process to go through before [Japan’s MSDF] deployment. … I know Japan has talked about information sharing with the United States and members of the international maritime security construct. … So, we’ll let Japan finish its process and then go from there.”
Young also said that “Iran’s support for terrorist activities, its continuing missile program, those kinds of behavior are, I think, at the heart of the issue in the Gulf region” and that the United States wants to continue talking with Japan about how to address such issues.
With regard to a new trade agreement concluded by Japan and the United States, Young said: “I think it’s a terrific success. I know we’ve used the phrase win-win. … It’s a victory for consumers and producers alike in both of our countries.” “The Diet has begun deliberations on the agreement and our hope is that with the Diet’s approval in this session, that we could move to implementation, perhaps as early as Jan. 1. That’s the ideal.”
Speaking about the current Japan-U.S. relationship, Young said, “I think we are reaching new heights in the relationship,” referring to such factors as the frequent meetings of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump and deepening cooperation in the economic and business fields as well as addressing emerging security challenges.
In relation to the deteriorating Japan-South Korea relationship, Young said, “We don’t want to take the role of an arbiter or a judge,” emphasizing that the United States is willing to facilitate and encourage dialogue between Tokyo and Seoul. South Korea decided to scrap the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan and the accord is slated to expire later this month.
Regarding the matter, Young said, “We’ve been very straightforward with the [South] Korean government that the expiry of that agreement would have an impact on the U.S. security interest. … I think our focus right now is keeping that agreement in place.”