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Ex-U.S. ambassador made great contributions to Japan-U.S. relations

By Hiroshi Tajima / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent


WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, who died on Monday at 93, played an important role in forging the relationship between Japan and the United States.


Mondale was the U.S. ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996 under the administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton. He was involved in negotiations with then Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto over the full return of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to Japan. The agreement was reached in April 1996.


While negotiating with the Japanese government to reduce the U.S. trade deficit in automobiles and semiconductors, Mondale also used his strong influence in the White House to improve Japan-U.S ties, which had been under strain due to economic friction.


After serving as a senator, he served as vice president from 1977 to 1981 under the administration of then U.S. President Jimmy Carter.


Carter said he considered Mondale to be the best vice president in U.S. history in a statement released after his death. The effort that Mondale put into the role during his time in office also had an impact on subsequent vice presidents.


Mondale made a run for president as a Democrat candidate in 1984 and drew attention by nominating a woman as his vice presidential candidate, but he lost to Republican Ronald Reagan.


U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement on Monday: “He not only created a path for himself, he helped others do the same … and I know how pleased he was to be able to see Kamala Harris become vice president.”


Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday: “He laid the foundation for today’s strong Japan-U.S. relationship and made a great contribution to strengthen the alliance. I would like to reiterate my respect for his contributions to Japan-U.S. relations.” 

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