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New U.S. envoy eager to visit Okinawa to learn about base issues

New U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty expressed his
eagerness Friday to visit Okinawa after his posting to Tokyo around
mid-August so as to "better understand" issues involving U.S.
military bases in the southernmost island prefecture.

Speaking at his first news conference since securing Senate
confirmation on July 13, Hagerty said, "I indeed intend to go to
Okinawa and to visit all of our military installations. I have a
great fondness and appreciation and gratitude for the communities
that host our military and make our military a fabric of their
community life."

Asked about the impasse over the planned relocation of U.S.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma within the prefecture, he said, "My
objective is to get to Japan and better understand the conflict that
may exist."

"I think that the United States should play a constructive
role," the 57-year-old businessman-turned-envoy said.

Many Okinawa residents oppose a Japan-U.S. plan to move the
Futenma airfield from a crowded residential area of Ginowan to the
less populated Henoko coastal area of Nago. Okinawa Gov. Takeshi
Onaga has demanded that the base be moved outside the prefecture.

Hagerty condemned North Korea's test-launch of its second
intercontinental ballistic missile earlier Friday, saying the United
States and Japan "stand resolute to confront any threat" facing the
two allies, especially that posed by Pyongyang.

He affirmed close trilateral coordination with South Korea,
saying the three countries have been at the "forefront of
international efforts to ensure that all countries fully and
effectively implement their obligations under U.N. Security Council
resolutions to restrict further the revenues for North Korea's
weapons program."

"As ambassador to Japan, I will focus on deepening and
continuing our partnership with Japan and our resolve to defend one
another against all enemies," he said.

Asked how he will assist President Donald Trump's efforts to
reduce a hefty goods trade deficit with Japan, Hagerty said, "I'm
actually very optimistic about our economic relationship."

Hagerty said the Commerce Department is working hard to identify
on which sectors the United States should focus in trying to cut the
deficit, which totaled $70.23 billion last year.

"I'll be an important part of that conversation and I have been
to this point," he said. "But we have not yet finalized the sectors
that we will focus together with our partners."

A native of Tennessee, Hagerty said he will depart the United
States for Tokyo with his family in "the middle part of August."

The envoy therefore said the charge d'affaires of the U.S.
Embassy in Tokyo will attend the 72nd anniversary ceremonies of the
U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9,
respectively.

"We're very excited about coming to Japan," he said. "For me,
it's a return to the country that I lived in a couple of decades ago,
a country that I love and enjoy so much."

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

The new ambassador will succeed Caroline Kennedy, who served
under President Barack Obama's administration before leaving Tokyo in
January. (July 29)