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Interview with former ambassador to Japan, William Hagerty

By Watanabe Hiroo, Washington, D.C.


Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty gave an interview to the Sankei Shimbun on Dec. 14 and expressed his opinion on the Beijing Winter Olympics scheduled for next February. The ex-ambassador remarked that the winter games should be moved to a country that respects human rights and the rule of law. The Biden administration has announced a diplomatic boycott of the games. During the interview, Hagerty stressed the paramount importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance in the strategy to deter China in the Indo-Pacific region, urging the U.S. Congress to swiftly vote to approve the next ambassador to Japan.


Hagerty said that the Olympic Games should be hosted by a “country that upholds human rights, the rule of law, and international standards,” pointing out that “China continues to allow genocide, as well as incidents of involuntary sterilization and forced labor, to take place in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and to take a confrontational approach toward its neighbors.”


“The time has come for us to stand up and say, ‘That’s enough,’” he added.


Hagerty is hopeful that Japan’s Kishida administration will join the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics. “I respect Japan’s sovereignty, but I still hope to see Japan taking the same step (as the U.S. administration),” he said.


The Biden administration has nominated Rahm Emanuel, an ex-Chicago mayor and former chief of staff to President Obama, as ambassador to Japan. Hagerty served in the position from 2017 to 2019. On Nov. 3, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to advance the nomination of Emanuel, along with the nomination of former Secretary of State Nicholas Burns for ambassador to China.


Approval of ambassadorial nominees have been delayed overall, however, due to bargaining between the parties over Congressional operations. As of Dec. 13, only nine of the administration’s 60 nominees have been approved by Congress.


“Congress gives greater priority to the domestic situation than to the place of the U.S. in the world,” said Hagerty, expressing strong concern about the delay.


Hagerty said that Emanuel “is in total sync with me in the conviction that a strong Japan-U.S. alliance is vital for the region.” He emphasized that Emanuel’s appointment will “send an important signal to our ally South Korea and (partner) Taiwan, as well as to China, North Korea, and Russia.”


Since 2020, Hagerty has been a U.S. Senator from Tennessee, a southern state of the United States.


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