Japan’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Shinsuke Sugiyama?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Shinsuke Sugiyama

Shinsuke J. Sugiyama, a long-time member of his country’s Foreign Service, presented his credentials to President Donald Trump as Japan’s ambassador to the United States on March 28, 2018. His appointment had been announced December 23, 2017.


Sugiyama was born May 14, 1953. He attended Waseda University and joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs right before his 1977 graduation.


In 1988, Sugiyama was involved in negotiating the Japan–US Agreement for Cooperation on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy.


By 1992, Sugiyama was working in the Economic Affairs Bureau of the ministry. The following year, he was named private secretary to the vice minister of foreign affairs, Kunihiko Saito. Sugiyama was chosen to lead the United Nations Policy Division in 1995 and played a similar role in the Treaties Division in 1998. In 1997, while he was Saito’s secretary, Sugiyama was mentioned in a slush fund embezzlement scandal, however no action was ever taken against him.


Sugiyama moved to Seoul as political affairs minister in the embassy there in 2000. In 2004, he was named deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Cairo, Egypt. Sugiyama returned to Japan in 2005 as the deputy director general for the Middle East in the Middle East and African Affairs Bureau and served as acting director in 2006. In 2008, Sugiyama was named director general for global issues and in 2011 was made director general for the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and served as Japan’s lead diplomat on North Korean nuclear issues.


In 2013, Sugiyama was tapped to be deputy minister of foreign affairs and in 2016 was promoted to vice minister, the highest-ranked career diplomat. Sugiyama created a controversy while still deputy minister in February 2016, after Japan and South Korea had agreed on compensation and other matters surrounding the Japanese Army’s use of “comfort women,” mostly Korean women forced into prostitution for the benefit of soldiers, during World War II. “In the early 1990s, when the comfort women issue became a political and diplomatic problem between Japan and the Republic of Korea, the Japanese government conducted a thorough investigation, but there were no documents confirming that the Japanese government or army forced comfort women into sexual servitude,” Sugiyama told a UN panel.


But that spring, Sugiyama scored something of a triumph in another matter involving World War II. He coordinated the visit of John Kerry to Hiroshima, the first time a U.S. Secretary of State had visited the site of the first use of the atomic bomb.


Sugiyama and his wife, Yoko, have two children: a son, Shunsuke, a businessman in Japan; and daughter Reina, a fashion designer in New York.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

South Korea Warns Japan Over “Comfort Women” Accord After Claims of No Proof (by Justin McCurry, The Guardian)

Japan’s Next Ambassador to U.S. Firm on Stance Against North Korea (Japan Times)

Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Chief Sugiyama to Become New Top Bureaucrat (Japan Times)

State Department Cables 2005-2010 (WikiLeaks)

Official Biography

Official Announcement


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