PRESS RELEASE: Suzanne Basalla Selected as New U.S.-Japan Council CEO; Paul Yonamine, Ernest Higa to Lead USJC Boards

WASHINGTON DC – The U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) Board of Directors has named Ms. Suzanne Basalla, Chief of Staff at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and former USJC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, as the new President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Council. She will assume this position on May 18, 2020. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with staff in California, Hawaii and Japan, USJC’s mission is to develop and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the U.S.-Japan relationship. The organization has almost 700 members in the U.S. and Japan.

Additional leadership announcements today include the appointment of Mr. Paul K. Yonamine as incoming Chair of the USJC Board of Directors, with a term beginning January 2021. Mr. Yonamine is currently USJC Board of Councilors Chair and is the Chairman and CEO of Central Pacific Financial Corp., and Executive Chairman of Central Pacific Bank. He will be replaced as Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors by Mr. Ernest Higa, who is President, Chairman and CEO at HIGA Industries Co., Ltd. Ms. Basalla will work closely with the Board of Councilors and the Board of Directors, as well as with the Japan Board, led by Ms. Royanne Doi, Global Legal, Ethics and Compliance Adviser, Legal Division, Yamaha Corp.; and the Japan Board of Councilors, chaired by Ms. Kathy Matsui, Vice Chair and Chief Strategist at Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd.

“The Board is confident that these outstanding leaders will enable the Council to meet the challenges of the future, including sustaining unique programs to strengthen U.S.-Japan relations, providing connections for our members and stakeholders in a greatly changed world, and continuing to develop a new generation of leaders,” said USJC Board Chair Phyllis Campbell.

The Board of Directors’ selection of Ms. Basalla as CEO concludes a search that began at the end of January, when USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye informed the Council that she planned to retire later in the year. With President Hirano Inouye’s death on April 7 and the deepening of the coronavirus crisis, special attention was given to identify a leader with proven crisis-management skills.

Ms. Basalla’s experience is rooted in her work as senior advisor to then-U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos. During the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, she partnered with President Hirano Inouye to help launch what would become the TOMODACHI Initiative, a public-private partnership administered by USJC. In 2012, Ms. Basalla joined USJC to work under President Hirano Inouye’s leadership as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, supporting all aspects of growing the Council and engaging regularly with members, donors and key government officials. Even after joining TRI in 2017, Ms. Basalla has been actively involved with USJC and serves on the Council’s Development Committee. She is also vice chair of the National Association of Japan America Societies and sits on the board of the Japan Society of Northern California.

She also previously served as director for Japan in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, leading a team working the full range of U.S.-Japan defense policy issues, and was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, with a two-year tour in Yokosuka. She earned a B.A. in Asian Studies from the University of Virginia and an M.S. in Asian Studies from George Washington University. In addition, she attended Keio University, researching China-Japan relations and implications for U.S. policy.

Washington, DC Headquarters
Contact: Alison Aadland
Public Relations Manager
[email protected]

Japan Office
Contact: Junko Tsuda
Executive Director of U.S.-Japan Council (Japan)
[email protected]