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When U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Mr. John V. Roos as the next American ambassador to Japan, some Japanese were apparently perplexed because the California-based lawyer was almost unknown to them and a Washington “Beltway” outsider.

It had been initially reported that the ambassadorial post would go to Mr. Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor emeritus and former assistant secretary of defense, who also invented the concept “soft power.” But Mr. Roos’ statements during a Senate confirmation hearing show that he could serve as an important link for deepening bilateral relations between Japan and the United States.

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