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  • Apr 24, 2014
  • Updated: 11:11pm

Japan welcomes nomination of Caroline Kennedy as US ambassador

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 9:18am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

The nomination of Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of assassinated US president John F. Kennedy, as ambassador to Japan shows the "great importance" Washington placed on the relationship, Tokyo said yesterday.

"The government of Japan understands that Ms Caroline Kennedy has the deep confidence of President [Barack] Obama, and it highly appreciates her nomination as reflecting the great importance the Obama administration attaches to the Japan-US alliance," the foreign ministry said.

Kennedy's late father is idolised in Japan and her appointment will boost ties between Washington and Tokyo. She would be the first woman in the post, replacing John Roos, who was a top Obama campaign fundraiser.

US President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday he is nominating former first daughter Caroline Kennedy as US ambassador to Japan, offering the most famous living member of a prominent American family a new role of service to country.

Kennedy, an attorney and bestselling book editor, is being rewarded for helping put Obama in the White House, where her father served until his assassination 50 years ago. If confirmed, she would be the first woman in a post where many other prominent Americans have served to strengthen a vital Asian tie.

Kennedy helped propel Obama to the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination with a celebrated endorsement over Hillary Rodham Clinton – the only time she’s endorsed a presidential candidate other than her uncle Ted Kennedy in 1980. She played a prominent role, particularly in courting female voters by headlining events in key states for Obama during both his presidential campaigns.

In the last year race, she served as one of 35 national co-chairs of Obama’s re-election campaign. She called Obama “the kind of leader my father wrote about in ‘Profiles in Courage’” during a prime-time speech at the last year Democratic National Convention.

The White House announced her nomination without any particular fanfare, listing her in a news release along with other selections for administration posts. Obama said in a statement that all the choices bring “a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles”, but he offered no comment specific to Kennedy.

Japanese women continue to look for role models who demonstrate that it is possible to be a woman and have a successful career in politics
Thomas Berger, Boston University

Kennedy, 55, doesn’t have any obvious ties to Japan, a key ally in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. She would replace John Roos, a wealthy former Silicon Valley lawyer and top Obama campaign fundraiser.

Japan is one of the United States’ most important trading and military partners and accustomed since the end of the second world war to having renowned American political leaders serve as envoy. Former US ambassadors to Japan include former vice-president Walter Mondale, former House speaker Tom Foley and former Senate majority leaders Mike Mansfield and Howard Baker.

Thomas Berger, an international relations professor at Boston University, said some may be concerned that Kennedy doesn’t have the experience to deal with thorny issues in the US-Japan relationship, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and the dispute over islands in the East China Sea claimed by both Japan and China. But Berger argued that Kennedy will have an experienced staff to guide her through policy matters, while she offers other assets – celebrity appeal to the Japanese, a close relationship with Obama and her gender.

“Japanese women continue to look for role models who demonstrate that it is possible to be a woman and have a successful career in politics,” Berger said. “I expect that many in both the United States and in Japan will want to use her to send that message to the Japanese public.”

Kennedy would bring a third generation of her family into the US diplomatic corps. Her grandfather Joseph P Kennedy Snr was president Franklin D Roosevelt’s ambassador to Britain, while her aunt Jean Kennedy Smith was ambassador to Ireland under president Bill Clinton.

Caroline Kennedy was five days shy of her sixth birthday when her father was killed, and she lived most of the rest of her life in New York City. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, got a law degree from Columbia University, married exhibit designer Edwin Schlossberg and had three children.

Kennedy is president of the John F Kennedy Library Foundation and chair of the senior advisory committee of the Institute of Politics at Harvard. She has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organisations, helped raise millions of dollars for New York schools and edited numerous bestselling books on history, law and poetry.

She considered running for political office after Hillary Rodham Clinton resigned the New York Senate seat to serve as Obama’s secretary of state. But Kennedy eventually withdrew herself from consideration to fill the seat, once held by her uncle Robert F Kennedy, citing unspecified personal reasons.


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