WASHINGTON – Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, will become ambassador to Japan, sources close to the bilateral relationship said.
Kennedy, an attorney and strong backer of President Barack Obama, will be taking up the post as Washington grapples with contentious defense and trade issues involving its top Asian ally. These include the realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan and negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. Japan is set to join the talks on the free trade pact this month.
The White House will announce the appointment soon, the sources said Friday.
Kennedy, 55, will become the first woman to assume the high-profile post, likely this fall, if the U.S. Senate approves her nomination, they said.
Currently president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Kennedy is believed to have had little involvement so far with Japan, except for her 1986 honeymoon trip with designer Edwin Schlossberg.
A New York native, Kennedy expressed interest in 2008 in succeeding then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton after Clinton was named secretary of state, but later dropped the bid. U.S. media at the time questioned her qualifications for the post, citing a lack of political experience and knowledge of key issues.
She supported Obama’s election campaigns in 2008 and 2012 and is also known for her close ties with Secretary of State John Kerry, who at one time was an aide to her late uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy.
U.S. Ambassador John Roos, a former corporate attorney and fundraiser for Obama’s 2008 election campaign, assumed the post in August 2009.
Kennedy, the only living child of John F. Kennedy, has endured a series of tragedies involving the family, including the assassination of her father in 1963, when she was 5, and the death of her brother, John F. Kennedy Jr., in an airplane crash in 1999.
After graduating from Harvard University, Kennedy worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She also studied at Columbia Law School. She has written and edited books on American history, politics and poetry.
Roos became ambassador to Japan the month before the Democratic Party of Japan took office in 2009. He has worked hard to rebuild U.S.-Japan relations since they were shaken by then-Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s handling of many key issues, including the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa.
Roos became the first U.S. ambassador to Japan to attend the annual peace memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for the victims of the atomic bombs dropped by the United States on the two cities in August 1945.
He took part in the Hiroshima ceremony on Aug. 6, 2010, and in the Nagasaki ceremony on Aug. 9, 2012.