Washington, Aug. 5 (Jiji Press)–Kenneth Weinstein, nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Japan, on Wednesday voiced his hope for Japan’s greater contribution to regional security.
Speaking at a hearing held online before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Weinstein said, “If confirmed, I will encourage Japan to shoulder even greater responsibility in the face of the significant security challenges we face together in Northeast Asia.”
The Senate hearing was held after President Donald Trump said in March that he intends to nominate Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute, a politically conservative think tank, to the envoy post. Approval from the Senate is needed before Weinstein, 58, takes office.
Touching on the friendship between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Trump, Weinstein said that the two countries are “extraordinarily close.”
“The U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific (region),” he noted.
On the planned talks on the sharing of costs for U.S. troops in Japan that will begin in autumn this year at the earliest, Weinstein said that he is “optimistic” that the two sides will “come to a fruitful conclusion.”
With this remark, he apparently encouraged the Japanese side to meet demands by Trump, who is hoping that Tokyo will provide far greater host-nation financial support for the U.S. military in Japan.
Weinstein indicated his wish to work on comprehensive bilateral trade negotiations following a Japan-U.S. trade agreement that took effect in January this year. “We really do need to go further, particularly in the auto sector,” he said.
In written testimony, Weinstein said that the issue of abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents decades ago “is dear to the heart of the Japanese people.”
He emphasized that Trump raised the matter when he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June 2018 and again in Hanoi in February 2019.
The post of U.S. envoy to Japan has been vacant for over a year after William Hagerty resigned in July 2019 to run for the Senate in November this year.
Although Weinstein is not an expert on Japan, he is known to be a close associate of Abe.
Valuing the United States’ relationship with Japan, Weinstein has launched the Hudson Institute’s Japan Chair and appointed H.R. McMaster, former national security adviser to Trump, as the head of the new division specializing in Japan.