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Consul General of Japan visits UD

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Lecture included topics ranging from security alliance to baseball and pop culture

Consul General of Japan talking at podium

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Ambassador and Consul General of Japan in New York Mikio Mori spoke at the University of Delaware on Feb. 20.

There are just 800 miles between Pyongyang, North Korea, and Tokyo, Japan — the same distance as between Delaware and Chicago, noted Ambassador and Consul General of Japan in New York Mikio Mori, as he lauded a new era in partnership between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. A component of this partnership, which was forged at Camp David last August, focuses on security concerns around North Korea and China.

Mori visited the University of Delaware on Feb. 20 for a free-ranging talk on topics ranging from the ever-increasing importance of the Japan-U.S. security alliance to anime and popular film.

More than 130 people attended the event in Gore Recital Hall, which was sponsored by UD’s Department of Political Science and International Relations and the College of Arts and Sciences. Mori’s remarks highlighted Japan’s concern about worldwide conflicts — including the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the Israel-Hamas war — while focusing on East Asia.

“The U.S.-Japan partnership is more important than ever. We must prevent the heightening of tensions in the East China and South China Seas,” said Mori, referencing recent incidents in which China has claimed maritime ownership despite international court rulings to the contrary.

This partnership also extends to cooperation on economic issues.

“Japan is committed to a free, open and inclusive economic corridor in the Indo-Pacific, and this can’t be achieved without the continued cooperation of the U.S.,” he said.

Mori began his career in the New York Consulate Office in 1985 while earning a bachelor’s degree from Williams College in Massachusetts. He went on to serve diplomatic roles in Germany, Australia, Kenya and Singapore, as well as tenures in Japan. He was named ambassador and consul general in 2022.

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Alice Ba talking to Consul General of Japan

Alice Ba, acting chair of the department of political science and​ international relations, moderated a Q&A session after Mori’s talk.​

During the 1980s, when he was first posted to New York, Mori noted that “Japan bashing” was rampant. Japan was portrayed as the cause of U.S. economic ills, including a significant trade deficit and a decline in domestic manufacturing. Then, in the early 1990s, Mori said that Japan was criticized for “being too little, too late,” in its response to the Gulf War.

The 1990s and into the 2000s was seen as the era of “Japan Passing,” with ongoing financial crises. In contrast, Mori said that today “Japan is Something,” especially in regard to its increasing role as an active player on the geopolitical stage. Japan has revised parts of its post-1945 security posture and increased its military budget, he said, while remaining committed to peace.

“The opportunity to meet Ambassador Mori was remarkable because he possesses real-world experience in US-Japan diplomacy,” said Danbi Lee, a doctoral student in political science and international relations. “Interactions [like this] are necessary to stay updated on recent events and to contemplate the applicability of the theories we learn and discuss in class to ongoing geopolitical events.”

Mori’s presentation also introduced the uninitiated to the country and culture of Japan, and of the ways that he believes the “Japan and the U.S. complement each other’s values.” He noted the popularity of anime and manga in both Japan and the U.S. and displayed a photo in which he threw out the first pitch at a New York Mets game.

“We have been playing baseball in Japan for over 150 years,” said Mori, noting that it’s as much a staple of Japanese culture as it is in U.S. culture.

“Ambassador Mikio Mori’s heartfelt and informative remarks inspired many in attendance to pursue collaborations that will advance scholarship, learning and cultural understanding between Japan and the University of Delaware,” said Debra Hess Norris, interim dean of UD’s College of Arts and Sciences.​

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