The Alliance Working in Tennessee

The Volunteer state has become a strategically important state in U.S.-Japan relations, as businesses and politicians alike have won over both the hearts and wallets of Japanese investors. The results of this are in the Fourth Edition 2023 Japan Matters for America book, a project produced by the East West Center and Sasakawa Peace Foundation, which collects data on U.S.-Japan connections on federal, state, and local levels. According to the book, Tennessee ranks in the top three states to receive Greenfield investment from Japanese investors, with 10.3 billion invested into the state as of 2023. It also reports that Greenfield investment has created 25,000 jobs in the state, as Japanese Multinational Enterprises, many of which are automakers, have produced 47,300 jobs for Tennesseans. Outside of economic connections, Tennessee is home to nearly 10,000 Japanese nationals, and has produced three U.S. Ambassadors to Japan. One of these ambassadors was Howard H. Baker Jr., who served as ambassador for the United States to Japan from 2001-2005. During his career, the late ambassador helped to develop the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, with a mission to educate the public, promote research, and encourage public service and policy engagement.

Sasakawa USA partnered with the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy (Baker Center) at the University of Tennessee Knoxville in recognition of the state’s growing importance in the U.S.-Japan relations sphere. This co-sponsored symposium, “The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance and Economic Relations at Work in Tennessee,” was a part of Sasakawa USA’s U.S.-Japan Strategic Alliance Series. The event took place in the Toyota Auditorium of the Baker Center on March 1, 2023 in Knoxville, TN. It featured two panel discussions covering U.S.-Japan related security issues and economic relations respectively, as well as an in-depth conversation on Japan’s integrated security.


March 1, 2023 | Knoxville, TN | The U.S.-Japan Security Alliance and Economic Relations at Work in Tennessee

The purpose of this symposium was to examine how the crucial bilateral alliance between the U.S. and Japan is evolving to meet new geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges by engaging experts in both military and economic security in public panel discussions.

A dinner before the symposium brought together program panelists, speakers, and organizers to review the themes of the upcoming program, as well as to build networks within the U.S.-Japan professional community.

Plenary Session

The event began the morning of March 1, 2023, with Welcome Remarks from Dr. Marianne Wanamaker, Executive Director of the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, and Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Tennessee Knoxville; Consul General Yoichi Matsumoto, Consulate-General of Japan in Nashville; and Dr. Satohiro Akimoto, chairman and president of Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA. Dr. Krista Wiegand, director of the global security program at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy and professor of political science at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, moderated the Welcome Remarks and served as the Master of Ceremonies for the symposium.

Dr. Wiegand moderated the first panel of the program, “Strengthening the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance.” The session featured remarks from LGEN Koichiro Bansho, former commanding general of the JGSDF Western Army (Ret.); LtGen Larry Nicholson, former commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force (Ret.); and Mr. James Schoff, senior director and leader of the US-Japan NEXT Alliance Initiative at Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.

This panel examined major areas of security concern for the U.S. and Japan in the Indo-Pacific, as well as how the allies could strengthen their joint activities to mitigate these threats. LGEN Bansho covered the growth of the Japanese military, along with internal pressures (both political and social) facing the U.S.-Japan Alliance. He also highlighted some of the regional threats in the Indo-Pacific. LtGen Nicholson followed by addressing the topic of unity among U.S. and Japanese forces, noting how despite the success of military integration on the main islands of Japan, there are still notable divisions among troops in Okinawa. Unity and trust are key to effective cooperation among allies, especially when dealing with China. A deterrent to China, he suggested, could be the utilization of “secret allies,” countries that benefit from China but would prefer to side with the U.S. if given the opportunity. LtGen Nicholson also emphasized the necessity of staying ahead of our enemies in the technological and information sector, which is especially clear throughout the ongoing war in Ukraine. Mr. Schoff then spoke on the importance of how others perceive U.S. activity in Asia. China could use even seemingly non-threatening actions against the U.S. politically or in the field of public opinion. The U.S. needs to be aware of this when crafting policy for and acting in the region. This panel and its subsequent discussion were particularly relevant considering the rising tension in the Indo-Pacific, due to increasing Chinese military activity in the South China Sea and around Taiwan, as well as due to North Korean missile launches over and around Japan.

The second panel, “Advancing U.S.-Japan Economic Relations,” was moderated by Dr. Akimoto, and featured remarks from Mr. David Boling, Director of Japan & Asian Trade at the Eurasia Group; Mr. Takuji Tanaka, Corporate Staff Section Adviser at the Mitsubishi Corporation (and former Executive Director for Japan at the IMF); and Ms. Masami Tyson, Partner at Womble Bond Dickinson (and former Global Director of FDI and Trade at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development).

This panel focused on how to foster U.S.-Japan economic relations, meet global economic challenges, particularly from China, and balance beneficial economic policies while protecting domestic interests and promoting open markets and cooperation. It especially emphasized Tennessee-Japan investments and economic connections. Mr. Tanaka kicked off the panel by covering how the current state of the U.S.-Japan Alliance affects economic policies. In response to an audience member’s question about the impact of domestic issues on the economic relationship between the U.S. and Japan, Mr. Tanaka expressed a positive view for the future of U.S.-Japan economic relations. Mr. Boling then went on to describe some of the economic challenges facing the Alliance, which he explains as having been created by changing trade practices and interests within the U.S. and Japan. Whereas Japan has become less hawkish on trade, the U.S. has become more resistant to free trade policies. After explaining a bit of the history behind this shift, Mr. Boling stressed the importance of understanding the different interests of the allies when discussing trade policy. Ms. Tyson then connected the U.S.-Japan Alliance to the regional economy by informing the audience about the significant amount of Japanese direct investment in Tennessee. For example, one-third of new jobs created by foreign investment were due to Japanese investment. She also told a bit of the history behind Japanese investment in Tennessee, and how Toshiba came to be the first Japanese investors in the state. This panel served well to connect the macro/global picture of U.S.-Japan economic relations and policies to the micro/regional subsequent outcomes. During the discussion, the audience inquired about how to attract additional Japanese businesses to the state to create more jobs.

The in-depth conversation on Japan’s integrated security with AMB Masafumi Ishii, former ambassador of Japan to Indonesia, was held over lunch, with Dr. Akimoto as moderator. The discussion centered on understanding other countries’ perspectives of U.S. activity in Asia, most notably regarding China, and how this affects U.S.-Japan military and economic policies in the Indo-pacific region. AMB Ishii highlighted the importance of increasing U.S.-Japan allies in the region, especially in Southeast Asia, but reminded the audience that different countries require different approaches when trying to establish a partnership. He emphasized the value of forming and preserving these partnerships when the conversation turned to what roles the U.S., Japan, and their allies might play should a potential conflict in Taiwan arise. These comments produced very substantive questions and a productive dialogue with the audience.

Dr. Wiegand provided the closing remarks. Prior to the event, she graciously had given the speakers a tour of the Baker Center, where she guided them through a brief history of the Center, as well as the legacy of the “Great Conciliator,” for whom the Baker Center was named after. This well-rounded and informative symposium upheld AMB Baker’s legacy, as it welcomed around 90 participants both virtually and in-person throughout the event, excited the graduates and undergraduates in attendance about Japan related programs at the university, and engaged international, national, and local U.S.-Japan economic and security experts in productive dialogue with community leaders and rising Indo-Pacific specialist.

For those who were unable to attend this event, the video can be viewed here on the Baker Center website.


All times indicated in Eastern Time.

9:00 AM | Welcome Remarks

9:15 AM | Panel 1: Strengthening the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance

10:30 AM | Break

10:45 AM | Panel 2: Advancing U.S.-Japan Economic Relations

12:00 PM | Lunch Starts

12:25 PM | In-Depth Conversation on Japan’s Integrated Security

1:25 PM | Closing Remarks

1:30 PM | Conclusion of Event


2024 Sasakawa USA | Privacy Policy | Sitemap

Custom WordPress Design, Development & Digital Marketing by time4design