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Tokyo-bound Kennedy attends welcome event

Kyodo

Caroline Kennedy, the next U.S. ambassador to Japan, attended a welcome event Tuesday in Washington hosted by the Japanese Embassy ahead of her departure for Tokyo. She is scheduled to arrive in Japan on Friday.

Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a swearing-in ceremony for Kennedy earlier Tuesday at the State Department.

Kennedy, the only surviving child of the late President John F. Kennedy, took part in a tea ceremony at the official residence of Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae.

Kennedy, accompanied by her husband, designer Edwin Schlossberg, was scheduled to later attend a reception at which Kerry was to address an audience including dignitaries involved in Japan-U.S. relations.

An attorney and strong ally of President Barack Obama, the 55-year-old Kennedy was confirmed as the ambassador by the Senate on Oct. 16.

A source close to Japan-U.S. relations has described Kennedy as someone who can get Obama on the phone at any time.

She is expected to attend a ceremony with Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace next Tuesday.

Kennedy is taking the post at a time when the United States faces challenging issues in its relationship with Japan, such as negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact and the controversial realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan.

Kennedy is also expected to deal with the strained ties between Japan and China, a major trade partner of the United States, over China’s claim to the Senkaku Islands.

Bearing that in mind, the Japanese government is keen to arrange the first meeting between her and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as soon as possible, according to government sources.