US-Japan Relations Disrupted? Former Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki’s Perspective

By Haeden Coffey

A Fireside Chat with Ambassador Fujisaki

If you have turned the news on recently, you may have noticed that there is a lot of uncertainty and worry in the world at the moment. North Korea has nuclear power and has produced a shroud of worry in the region, and President Trump continues to pull the United States away from the rest of the world by enacting protectionist measures. Many have raised questions and concerns about where the current administration is positioning the United States in the international community, specifically in terms of relations with allied countries.

Ambassador Fujisaki speaks with event moderator Dr. Robert Pekkanen

Ichirō Fujisaki, who served as Japanese ambassador to the United States from 2008-2012, came to speak at the Foster School of Business – thanks to a partnership between the Global Business Center and the Tateuchi Foundation – to discuss his views on the future of Japanese-American relations in the ever-changing political climate of today.

Early Life

Ambassador Fujisaki recalled when he first came to the United States in the 1960’s. To him the differences between American life and the life back home in Japan were polar opposites. He mentioned that Americans could drink a Coca-Cola whenever they wanted, while in Japan it was a commodity that one would enjoy maybe once a year. He came to the United States knowing little to no English, to attend junior high school in Seattle, and also to satisfy his sincere desire to become more internationally experienced and globally-minded. He never gave up on this earnest desire and went on and received a degree in Political Science at Stanford University, eventually becoming Japanese Ambassador to the United States.

The World Today

To start off the night, Ambassador Fujisaki was asked about his views on the current election and the future of the American political system. Fujisaki discussed how he saw a great change in American politics, specifically the increase in partisanship. To him the American system for electing presidents is much like a Christmas present that you were not expecting. It is a great surprise and even if it is not the present you wanted, you have to accept it and work with it. When pushed to voice his views on President Trump, Fujisaki simply said that Americans have elected their president, now they need to get on with it. He also conveyed his envy of Americans, saying that we are lucky we can say whatever we want about our president without any consequence, a concept quite unfamiliar to a Japanese diplomat.

Ambassador Fujisaki and Dr. Robert Pekkanen address the audience of Business Community members, Faculty members, and CISB Students

TPP, Paris Agreement, and the Future of Japanese-United States Relations

Ambassador Fujisaki expressed his concerns on the United States’ recent withdrawal from TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and the Paris Agreement, saying that America is crucial for the world’s security system. Although America is not a part of these partnerships at the moment, Fujisaki said that they are always welcome back, once the United States has a change of heart.

Ambassador Fujisaki continued on the topic of Trump, and discussed his views on the recent meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. He asserted that Japan is dependent on the United States for protection. Fujisaki said this meeting reassured the Japanese people, citing the recent press conference with James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, who affirmed the commitment that the United States has to Japanese security. Overall, according to Fujisaki, although the United States seems to continually seclude itself from the rest of the world, Japan hopes that the United States will still be the bedrock of global security for the foreseeable future. As far as the future of United States’ relations with Japan, Fujisaki says that Japan is content with the current state of relations and hopes that the firm reliance between the two nations will flourish, not only to protect Japan from neighboring nations, specifically North Korea, but also to further enforce the future global security system.

From left to right: Dr. Robert Pekkanen, Jackson School of International Studies; Daniel Asher, Tateuchi Foundation; Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki; and Jeff Riedinger, Vice Provost of Global Affairs

 

Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki is one of the Global Business Center’s Asian Business Distinguished Speakers, a series funded by the Tateuchi Foundation. The Atsuhiko & Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation seeks to promote and improve international understanding, knowledge and the quality of relations between Japan and the United States.