The United States Senate has confirmed private equity executive William Hagerty as the next US Ambassador to Japan.
Hagerty, who founded the private equity firm Hagerty Peterson, has some political experience, having served in the White House under George H.W. Bush. He has also spent several years in Japan with the Boston Consulting Group.
The 57-year-old did not face much scrutiny during his hearing, and was approved with a vote of 86 to 12. During the hearing, which took place in May, he was asked whether he agreed with controversial comments that US President Trump made about Japan needing to take greater responsibility for its own defense. One of the subtexts of Trump’s remarks was that Japan might need to develop its own nuclear weapons. In his remarks at the hearing, Hagerty said that he had no intention of urging Japan to pursue any sort of nuclear strategy.
Trump has been taken to task for being slow to appoint ambassadors to the US’ key allies, including Japan. Recent tensions with North Korea have also made the appointment of a US ambassador to Japan more of a pressing issue. The appointment of a business executive has been interpreted as a sign that the administration wants to place an emphasis on the business ties between the two countries.
Hagerty, who hails from Nashville, Tennessee, is said to be proficient in Japanese; before the Senate’s vote, which took place on Thursday, Senator Lamar Alexander remarked that Hagerty had given an entire speech in Japanese at the US Embassy in Tokyo while he was serving as his home state’s commissioner of economic and community development.
Greeting the new ambassador, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida said, “I am greatly honored to greet you as ambassador to Japan as you have plenty of experience such as living in Japan and working for both government and private sectors … I very much look forward to your early arrival and to working with you to further strengthen the unwavering tie between Japan and the United States.”
Hagerty succeeds President Obama’s appointee Caroline Kennedy, who stepped down after Trump took office in January.