New envoy to U.S. vows to push TPP discussions

Kyodo

Newly appointed Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae pledged Tuesday to advance bilateral talks with Washington over Tokyo’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade initiative, while downplaying a territorial row with China over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands.

“If Japan sits back, Asia’s economic order will be formed regardless of Japan,” Sasae told a press conference in Washington, adding he hopes there will be more political support for the TPP negotiations.

Sasae, a former vice foreign minister, also noted that any global economic rules cannot be crafted without the participation of the U.S., China and Japan, the world’s top three economies.

On the territorial disagreement with China over the islets in the East China Sea, Sasae brushed aside Beijing’s claim, saying, “If they are really confident about their territorial problem, I don’t know why they are not going to the ICJ,” referring to the International Court of Justice.

“I think they don’t have any confidence or basis for their claims,” he added.

On the other hand, the new envoy stressed that Japan should not remain at odds with China.

“Japan and the U.S. need to cooperate to establish a relationship under which they can build future security and economic orders in the Asia-Pacific region together with China,” he said.

For that purpose, stable relations are needed among Japan, the U.S. and China, Sasae said.

Also on the agenda, Sasae said he will help promote the realignment of U.S. forces in Okinawa by ensuring close communication with Congress and the U.S. government while listening to views of the local governments and residents in Okinawa.