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Takashi Arimoto

【#619(Special)】Japan Should Capitalize on Connections with Pompeo

Takashi Arimoto / 2019.09.19 (Thu)

September 17, 2019


John Bolton has been ousted as U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Given that Bolton values alliances and features deep understanding about North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens, his dismissal is a setback for Japan. However, this development had been expected to some extent. “The Trump-Bolton marriage was doomed from the start,” says David Rothkopf in his article on the “Daily Beast” news site. Rothkopf has authored “Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power.”

Trump may avoid a “bad deal” with Pyongyang

Trump and Bolton were perfectly happy to talk trash about Iran and North Korea, according to Rothkopf. “But when Trump concluded he might get more political credit for deals with each of these, he was not just eager to negotiate, he was ready to take any deal he could get. Such capitulation was anathema to Bolton, and it resulted in the estrangement of the two men.”

The most excellent presidential national security adviser was Brent Scowcroft who served President George H.W. Bush, Rothkopf said in an interview with me when I was a correspondent in Washington, D.C. Deeply trusted by the president, Scowcroft was a good mediator between the president, and the secretaries of state and defense, he said. Bolton had lost Presidential confidence, finding no room in the White House. Trump would be the first U.S. president to appoint the fourth national security adviser in the first term since the National Security Council was created in 1947.

“Trump has swept away all national security establishments in Washington, getting a free hand to dominate,” says a diplomat in Washington. In a bid to make foreign policy achievements toward the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, President Trump may try to cut deals with Iran and North Korea, the diplomat predicted, adding that “the sharp Mr. Trump would take care to avoid any bad deal that could be under fire from Democrats.”

A key person is Kitamura, head of Japan’s NSC

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be in charge of the negotiation with North Korea, increasing his presence in the administration. Japan should value personal connections with Pompeo. Former Foreign Minister Taro Kono had built a good relationship with Pompeo. New Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has no sure things yet. U.S. intelligence sources say a “Kitamura-Pompeo connection” could be useful. Shigeru Kitamura, who has become the new head of Japan’s National Security Council Secretariat, formerly served as the head of the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, building personal relations with then Central Intelligence Agency Director Pompeo. Kitamura has reportedly had secret contacts with North Korea. Pompeo is well aware of Kitamura’s close relations with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and could seek to cooperate with Kitamura.

At a time when the Trump administration is being redressed more clearly for Trump’s reelection as president, Tokyo may be required to explain Japan’s positions to Washington about the North Korean abduction issue and other matters more in detail.

Takashi Arimoto is a publisher of Monthly Magazine SEIRON at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.