Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer Discusses U.S.-Japan Relations in Online State Department Forum

J. Thomas Schieffer
May 30, 2008


Roger in New Jersey writes: Mr. Ambassador, how does the U.S. intend to balance its longtime strategic partnership with/commitment to Japan against the rise of China as the premier (or soon to be premier) economic, military, and political power in East Asia?

Ambassador Schieffer: Roger, you are right to say that the United States and Japan have had a long-time strategic partnership. The U.S.-Japan alliance is the linchpin of both our foreign policies in the Pacific. We both believe that the stronger and healthier that alliance is, the easier it will be to deal with the changes occurring in Asia today - including the rise of China. Having better relations with China does not mean that either the U.S. or Japan must diminish their relationship with each other.

Jonathan in Georgia writes: Dear Ambassador Schieffer: What is the U.S. currently doing and planning to do to ensure a safe relationship between Japan and China, not just in trade and commerce but in prevention of an arms race and hostile military combat? Japan and the U.S. have been allies now for nearly 60 years, how are we going to maintain and improve this alliance while also keeping our alliance with China?

Ambassador Schieffer: Jonathan, neither the U.S. nor Japan needs to confront China. Both of us believe that better Sino-Japanese relations are in the long-term interests of peace in the region and both of us are ready to do our part to achieve that goal. With regard to our alliance, please see my answer to Roger above.

John in U.S.A. writes: How do you see the relationship between China and Japan, and what's your assessment on Japan-Taiwan ties?

Ambassador Schieffer: John, Sino-Japanese relations are improving. Just this week China asked for and Japan agreed to give assistance in the terrible Chinese earthquakes. Everyone thinks that is a good thing. With regard to Japan-Taiwan relations, they remain strong. Japan, like the U.S., follows a one China policy that discourages both China and Taiwan from taking provocative actions that could lead to war in the Taiwan Strait. Japan and the United States strongly believe that differences between China and Taiwan should be resolved peacefully.

Adam in China writes: How are the United States and Japan cooperating to provide for a more stable and secure East Asia, considering recent tensions with China and North Korea?

Ambassador Schieffer: Adam, The U.S., Japan, China, the Republic of Korea, and Russia have joined in the Six Party Talks to urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. We believe a nuclear-free Korean peninsula would be a great contribution all of us could make towards a more peaceful Northeast Asia.


Lee in South Korea writes: What do you think of Japan's distortion of history? Please answer in the view of United States.

Ambassador Schieffer: Lee, when it comes to history, all of us could do better. The facts of history should not be in dispute. What happened; happened, and we should not ignore it. At the same time all of us will best be served when we look to the future and not the past.

Martin in Germany writes: Sir! How do you judge Japan's efforts in the war on terror? What would you like Japan to improve with respect to this subject?

Ambassador Schieffer: Martin, Japan has made valuable contributions to the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and many world fora. All of us need to realize that terrorism is the bane of our time and we must do everything we can to root it out.


Angel in New York writes: Mr. Schieffer, what is the U.S. government doing to control the outrageous and shameful behavior of some service members posted in Japan? I am afraid that the Japanese view of the U.S. military is not very favorable and it does not appear that matters are being handled properly by the military.

Ambassador Schieffer: Angel, there is no doubt that a few military personnel in Japan have acted badly. At the same time, the overwhelming majority of American servicemen and women are performing their service here with honor and distinction. Crime rates within the military are substantially less than those in the civilian population, and we should remember that before condemning all for the actions of a few.


Liisa in Sweden writes: Hello, I would like to know about Japan and U.S.A.'s relationship to each other. How is the foreign trade between the countries? I hope I'll get an answer.

Ambassador Schieffer: Liisa, Japan is America's fourth-largest trading partner in the world. Our relations are very good. We hope that in the years ahead our trading relationship will grow even more. I am glad your e-mail got answered.

Hannah in South Korea writes: How do you plan on influencing or helping the strength of the bonds between Japan and other Asian countries so that they can better support each other in the current economy?

Ambassador Schieffer: Hannah, we encourage Japan to reach out to other American friends and allies. We think it is important for Japan and the United States to have good multilateral as well as bilateral relations with others. The more we talk together, the better chance we will have of understanding each other, and understanding is still the main ingredient for peace.


Julia in Massachusetts writes: Hi. I am an 8th grader and we are doing a report on presidential responsibilities. As a U.S. ambassador, can you please tell me: How were you appointed to be an ambassador? Does the president play a role in your job? If so, how? Thank you for your time.

Ambassador Schieffer: Julia, an Ambassador of the United States is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Ambassadors try to carry out the policies of Presidents. All of us work very hard to coordinate and communicate in one voice for the various agencies and departments that make up the Executive branch of our government.

Alvin in Virginia writes: What is it like being the ambassador to Japan and how does the language barrier affect your diplomacy?

Ambassador Schieffer: Alvin, it is really cool being an ambassador. You are the face of America in Japan, and it can be both a humbling and exhilarating experience to represent your country abroad. I wish I could speak Japanese, but unfortunately I can't. So I depend on some very good interpreters to convey my thoughts into Japanese.

Elizabeth in California writes: My son is taking economics at college. What would be a good major for someone seeking to work for the State Dept? Thank you!

Ambassador Schieffer: Elizabeth, economics is a good major for working in the Foreign Service, but so is government, business or virtually anything else. The State Department is more interested in finding good people who want to serve their country abroad in an honorable and genuine way than in finding a specific major. Having said that, learning additional language skills will be a big help in a Foreign Service career.

Halle in Georgia writes: My fiancé actually dreams of being the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and is currently studying International Affairs at Georgia Tech. I know that the State Department delivers rigorous testing before one can be involved in Foreign Service but what advice would you give to a young college student dreaming of becoming a U.S. Ambassador? Thank you for your time.

Ambassador Schieffer: Halle, marry that man, he has great ambitions! Living in the Ambassador's residence here in Tokyo would not be bad either. You could find no more fulfilling career than serving in the Foreign Service. I hope both you and your fiancé will consider pursuing a Foreign Service career. It is an honorable thing to do.


Cristina in California writes: Dear Ambassador: What are the best opportunities for students interested in traveling, working, or studying in Japan?

Ambassador Schieffer: Cristina, there are a lot of programs, scholarships and internships that can get you to Japan for travel, work or study. Check out these opportunities:

State Department internships: For more information see, under "Students".
For Student Exchanges, see

Also, the government of Japan has the "Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme." See, which offers young American college graduates the opportunity to live and teach English in Japan.

Deborah in Japan writes: I teach English. It seems many high school students who consider studying abroad or going on a "home stay" feel that the United States is too dangerous to visit. Their parents would prefer they go to Australia or England. Is anything being done to work on this perception of our country?

Ambassador Schieffer: Deborah, I know that there are a lot of people abroad who think that it is dangerous for foreigners to study in the U.S. It has almost become an urban myth. All of us have a duty to debunk that myth on a daily basis. America is a great place to study and it is safe. By the same token, Americans' educational experience is enriched by having foreigners in our classrooms. I hope we will do more to encourage educational exchanges.