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New U.S. envoy Hagerty says alliance with Japan is "ironclad"

New U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty, a businessman close to
President Donald Trump, on Thursday expressed his determination to
deepen security and economic ties between his country and Japan,
underlining their alliance as "ironclad."

Upon arriving at Narita airport near Tokyo, Hagerty also told a
press conference that he aims to boost the bilateral partnership amid
threats from North Korea. "I expect to see that partnership grow
stronger in the face of the rising threats in the region," he said.

The security environment in the Asia-Pacific region has worsened
amid North Korea's attempt to develop nuclear-tipped ballistic
missiles that could strike as far as the mainland United States, as
well as China's military buildup and territorial ambitions in the
East and South China seas.

While Hagerty was tight-lipped on whether he was told by Trump
on how to handle the North Korean issue, he stressed that the ability
of the United States to defend itself and its allies is "beyond

The ambassador said that "all options are on the table," with
regard to dealing with North Korea, and that international pressure
on North Korea will mount even more until Pyongyang dials down its

He sprinkled his remarks with Japanese phrases during his
15-minute news conference, such as "Hajimemashite," which roughly
translates to "Nice to meet you." His wife and four children were
also there.

Ahead of his arrival, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo released a video
message from Hagerty in which he said, "There is no bilateral
relationship more important to the United States than our alliance
with Japan. Our commitment to the security of Japan and our economic
partnership is ironclad."

On the economic front, Hagerty, who served as a key member of
the Trump transition team, is expected to call for greater market
access for U.S. products in Japan as part of an effort to reduce the
U.S. trade deficit with the country.

Hagerty is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on
Friday, along with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Tokyo.

Separately, Abe and Dunford are expected to discuss North Korea
and affirm their countries' intent to work together in surveillance
and defense in light of Pyongyang's threat last week to fire
ballistic missiles across two of four main Japanese islands toward
the U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific.

The Japanese government has welcomed Trump's appointment of
Hagerty, with a senior official saying he has earned a "great deal of
trust" from the president.

Hagerty built ties with Japan through a three-year posting to
Tokyo from the late 1980s to early 1990s while working for the Boston
Consulting Group, and in his work as commissioner of economic
development for Tennessee from 2011 to 2015.

The new ambassador succeeded Caroline Kennedy, who served under
President Barack Obama's administration before leaving Tokyo in
January. (Aug. 17)

New U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty, a businessman
close to U.S. President Donald Trump, waves to reporters before
speaking at a press conference at Narita International Airport near
Tokyo on Aug. 17, 2017. Hagerty arrived in Japan with the
importance of security relations between the two counties increasing
due to threats by North Korea. (Kyodo)