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U.S. vice president known to value ‘bond’ with Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun

By Hiroshi Arimitsu / Yomiuri Shimbun CorrespondentNEW YORK — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who heads his nation’s delegation at the Japan-U.S. economic dialogue that began on Tuesday in Tokyo, is regarded as a key person in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Pence has been acting as a coordinator between the United States and Japan on issues such as trade while also supporting the president, who is known for his strong personality. The Yomiuri Shimbun went to Pence’s home state of Indiana to find out more about him.

Victor Smith served as secretary of commerce for the state of Indiana in the Pence administration, which began in January 2013. Smith remembers Pence using the Japanese word kizuna, or “bond,” during his time as governor. According to Smith, Pence said he regarded the relationship between Japan and Indiana as special, adding that it could be described as kizuna.

As governor, Pence set employment measures as his top priority. He also worked on tax cuts and road improvement. Indiana’s unemployment rate improved to 4 percent in December 2016, down from 8.4 percent when he took office — an improvement also helped by the economic recovery of the nation as a whole.

Smith said Pence is well informed about Japanese companies. When a Subaru Corp. factory was damaged by a tornado in 2013, Pence visited the site by helicopter.

Trump, who is known for his “America first” doctrine, has asked Japanese companies to increase their investment in the United States and make other contributions. Koji Morikawa, vice president of Subaru’s U.S. arm, is pinning his hopes on Pence’s sense of judgment: “I believe Mr. Pence has deep knowledge of Japanese automakers,” he said.

The first Japanese company established itself in Indiana in the 1980s. Now the number has increased to about 270, with Subaru, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. operating facilities in the state. Japan tops the list of foreign companies in Indiana in terms of numbers, and Japanese companies have created more than 50,000 jobs in the state. A Subaru plant in Lafayette, Ind., displayed a 2015 note of appreciation from the state for its contribution to a state-sponsored reemployment assistance program for the long-term unemployed.

Smith said relations with Japan have benefited Indiana, adding that Pence would likely appreciate the importance of Japan-U.S. ties. In the interview, he hinted that economic friction between the two nations was unlikely to escalate with Pence serving as the U.S. mediator during the economic dialogue.

Strong connection with GOP execs

Mike Pence, whose grandfather was an Irish immigrant, was born to a family that ran gasoline stations. He is an evangelical Christian, part of a group that values discipline.

He has run a policy research institute in Indiana, and also hosted a talk radio show. Pence twice failed to win a House of Representatives seat, and later said that the experience made him understand that negative campaigning is ineffective.

After serving in the House for six terms over 12 years, he was elected governor of Indiana in 2013. He is frequently spoken of as a potential presidential candidate. In the Trump administration, Pence serves as a coordinator in various fields, utilizing his connections with Republican Party executives.

Pence has three children with his wife, Karen. According to a Washington Post report, he is known as a doting husband.

Ever since he won his first seat in the lower house, he has used a landline phone with a number only Karen knows. Pence does not dine with other women unless Karen is present, the newspaper reported.Speech

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