Roos arrives early, is sworn in as new U.S. ambassador

by Jun Hongo

NARITA, Chiba Pref. — New U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos arrived in Tokyo Wednesday pledging to further strengthen bilateral ties and solidify the bond he called the cornerstone of Washington’s Asia-Pacific policies.

Roos, sworn in as ambassador Sunday, will fill the spot left open since the January departure Thomas Schieffer.

“I am deeply honored to be the U.S. ambassador to this great nation of Japan,” Roos told reporters at Narita airport. “Ties between our two countries are unique,” he added, expressing hope that Tokyo and Washington continue to play further roles together in promoting security, stability and democratic values in the world.

Roos also touched on his hopes on collaborating with Japan on creating new technology, saying that as “two of the most innovative nations in the world,” the two can address new measures against climate change and energy security.

Roos was accompanied by his wife, Susie, and daughter Lauren, 22, and son David, 17.

While some speculated that the arrival — originally expected to take place in September — was brought forward due to the beginning of the school semester for Roos’ children, others say domestic uncertainty in the political situation necessitated the earlier than expected arrival.

Roos sets foot in Japan with a historic change of power widely expected in the Aug. 30 election, as the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, holds a commanding lead in opinion polls.

With the next prime minister expected to be absent in mid-September to attend the U.N. General Assembly and U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan scheduled in November, Roos will have his plate full from the start.

The virtually unknown California-based lawyer, whose nomination as ambassador came as a surprise to most bureaucrats and lawmakers, has it all to prove as the top U.S. representative in Tokyo.

While government officials have expressed optimism due to the strong personal ties between Roos and Obama, brushing off concerns at his lack of diplomatic experience will be a tricky task.

During the Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month, Roos called U.S.-Japan bilateral ties the “cornerstone” of Washington’s Asia policies.