WASHINGTON -- The nominee for US ambassador to Japan said Thursday he will have no problem speaking up to Tokyo if the ally engages in acts contradicting American values, such as government leaders paying homage to a shrine honoring war criminals.
William Hagerty made the remark during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing when ranking member Ben Cardin (D-MD) asked if he's willing to speak out against certain acts, such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a Tokyo shrine honoring class-A war criminals.
"My job will be to create a sense of trust and fair dealing with the Japanese government and with the citizens, but also to be a steadfast supporter of our values as Americans and advance American interest," Hagerty said. "I would have no problem speaking to the Japanese and conferring with them on issues that are contrary to our values at the appropriate time and at the appropriate conditions."
Cardin noted there have been challenges in the relations between South Korea and Japan over how to deal with World War II issues.
"In December 2013, Prime Minister Abe visited the controversial shrine to World War II, which included several Class A war criminals," the senator said. "Our embassy spoke out against that visit as being insensitive, and I underscore that because that's a close friend and yet what our ambassador does in Japan is an important message about where we need to make sure that we advance our values."
Visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine by Japanese leaders have long been a key source of tension in the region as the neighboring countries have riled strongly against such moves as an attempt to glorify the country's militaristic past.
South Korea and China view shrine visits as a sign that Japan has not repented for its imperialist past and could seek to revive militarism, despite words of repentance and peace from Abe and other Japanese leaders.
Hagerty also stressed the importance of trilateral security cooperation between the US, Korea and Japan.
"North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs represent the region's most acute threat," the nominee said. "We should continue to coordinate closely with Japan and trilaterally with the Republic of Korea in pressuring the Kim Jong-un regime to abandon its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs." (Yonhap)