William Hagerty, a Tennessee businessman, has returned to Tokyo as U.S. ambassador and vowed to deepen personal relations with as many Japanese people as possible during his tenure.
Hagerty, a close ally of President Donald Trump, spent about three years in Japan from the late 1980s to early 1990s working for the Boston Consulting Group, and served as commissioner of economic development for the state of Tennessee from 2011 to 2015.
In an interview with Kyodo News on Tuesday, Hagerty said his Japanese is "a little rusty" with a smile, but he expressed strong eagerness to work with the country that he said had brought him positive memories.
"During my time here, I look forward to contributing to this most important of security and economic partnerships, to traveling widely and getting to know the people of this great country even better, and to strengthening the 'kizuna' which link us so closely," Hagerty said. "Kizuna" is the Japanese word for bonds.
To bolster the U.S.-Japan alliance, creating a "stronger personal bond" is particularly important, Hagerty said.
He added his priorities as ambassador to Japan are to maintain national security, enhance economic partnership and boost "people-to-people" ties.
The last one is "the connective tissue for the first two," Hagerty said. "If we get that stronger, the first two work better. It's simple."
Hagerty said he intends to visit disaster-stricken areas in Japan, such as Kumamoto Prefecture, the area hardest hit by powerful quakes in southwestern Japan last year, and Fukushima Prefecture, devastated by the March 2011 magnitude-9.0 quake and the ensuing nuclear accident.
The new ambassador, meanwhile, pledged to conduct "golf" diplomacy to reinforce ties between the United States and Japan as Trump has done with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"You can learn a lot about a person playing golf. It does not require great language ability," Hagerty said, adding, "It supports our partnership and our alliance."