Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving child of murdered US president John F. Kennedy, called Japan the "most important ally" of the US in Asia as she prepared to take up the post of ambassador to Japan.
The diplomatic novice is filling a key role as Tokyo is embroiled in territorial tussles with China and South Korea and as the US seeks to increase its involvement in Asia through an ambitious free trade pact
Kennedy will head to Tokyo tomorrow, one week ahead of the 50th anniversary of her father's assassination.
"Growing up in a family dedicated to public service, I saw how people can come together to solve challenges through commitment, communication and co-operation," she said in a video message posted on the embassy's website.
Kennedy said she has long felt personal ties with Japan after accompanying her uncle, the late senator Ted Kennedy, on a trip to Hiroshima when she was 20.
Kennedy, 55, will be the first woman US ambassador to Japan.