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Obama Nominates Caroline Kennedy as US Ambassador to Japan

  • VOA News

Rep. Ed Markey (R), the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in the Massachusetts open seat special election, laughs as Caroline Kennedy introduces him to seniors during a campaign event in Massachusetts, June 3, 2013.

Rep. Ed Markey (R), the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in the Massachusetts open seat special election, laughs as Caroline Kennedy introduces him to seniors during a campaign event in Massachusetts, June 3, 2013.

U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, to be the next ambassador to Japan.

Obama Wednesday called Kennedy a fine public servant who will bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to her new role.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga welcomed the appointment. Citing Kennedy's close relationship with Obama, he said the move shows the White House attaches great importance to the Japan-U.S. alliance.

"We have heard that she is very close to President Obama. One role of the ambassador is whether they can speak to the president directly, and we believe it is a very significant responsibility, and so we would like to welcome that," he said.

Kennedy, a best-selling author, is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School. She has also run several non-profit organizations.

But Yoichiro Sato with Japan's Ritsumeikin Asia-Pacific University, tells VOA that some in Tokyo have questions about her experience.

"I think there is an unspoken concern about her lack of Japan-specific or even Asia-specific expertise," he said.

Kennedy has not worked in government and does not have any Japan-related experience. Even still, Sato says this does not mean she is viewed as unqualified in Tokyo.

"But she's going to have to quickly catch up, with the amount of policy expertise, especially in security matters, in the region," said Sato.

One of the most urgent challenges Kennedy will face is Japan's heated dispute with China over a group of islands in the East China Sea. She will also have to navigate tense discussions with Japan over its entry into the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

The 55-year-old Kennedy grew up in front of the cameras and the public. From 1961 to 1963, she and her younger brother, the late John, Jr., enchanted the world -- cavorting in the White House while their father grappled with the Cold War and issues such as civil rights.

She replaces outgoing Ambassador John Roos, an ex-Obama fundraiser and Silicon Valley CEO who has served in the position since 2009. Her nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate.

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