Caroline Kennedy, the only daughter of the late U.S. President John F. Kennedy, arrived in Tokyo on Friday as the United States’ new ambassador to Japan and presented her credentials to Emperor Akihito on Tuesday. The appointment of a member of America’s most famous political family to this post shows that U.S. President Barack Obama attaches strong importance to Japan-U.S. ties. We hope that the new ambassador will serve as a firm bridge between the two countries and help strengthen mutual understanding at a time when the two countries face a host of sensitive issues such as chilly Japan-China and Japan-South Korea relations, Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and a plan to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan City to Henoko on Okinawa Island.
In a historical coincidence, Caroline Kennedy started her new job just a few days before the 50th anniversary of the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of her father. President Kennedy is still popular with the Japanese public and many Japanese remember her image as a cherubic five year old during that tragic time.
Upon her arrival at Narita airport, she said that Obama “is a great admirer of Japan” and went on to say, “I am also proud to carry forward my father’s legacy of public service. He had hoped to be the first United States president to visit Japan. So it is a special honor for me to be able to work to strengthen the close ties between our two great countries.” President Kennedy wanted to visit Japan to bolster bilateral ties, which had been rattled by mass opposition to the renewal of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1960.
Caroline Kennedy strongly supported Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 U.S. presidential elections. Her close relationship with him is a strong point and she is said to be on “speaking terms” by phone. She is also reportedly close to Secretary of State John Kerry.
We hope that the new ambassador will accurately convey to Washington not only the views of the Japanese government but also those of ordinary Japanese citizens on sensitive issues, especially the issue of the plan to move the Futenma air station to Henoko, in the north of Okinawa Island. Okinawans, who have suffered from the heavy presence of the U.S. military on their island, want the Futenma functions to be relocated to a place outside Okinawa Prefecture. Forcing the Henoko plan — which has been stalled for about 17 years — through will increase Okinawan resentment of the policies of both Washington and Tokyo, which could in turn become a destabilizing factor in overall Japan-U.S. ties.
We also hope that Kennedy will pay close attention to the perception among Okinawans that the Status of Forces Agreement prevents full justice from being done when U.S. military personnel commit crimes and will help amend it.
Kennedy’s predecessor John Roos took part in peace ceremonies in the atomic-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the first U.S. ambassador to do so. Kennedy visited Hiroshima in 1978 with her uncle Edward Kennedy. In her confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate, she said how she was shaken by her Hiroshima visit. We hope she will make a positive contribution to global efforts to abolish nuclear weapons.