Caroline Kennedy was greeted by thousands of cheering Japanese as she passed through the streets of Tokyo to present her credentials to Emperor Akihito as the U.S.’s first female ambassador to Japan.
Kennedy’s background as the only living child of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy and her ties to President Barack Obama have heightened attention on her appointment in Japan. Her father had hoped to become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Japan before he was assassinated in Dallas 50 years ago this week.
In today’s ceremony, Kennedy handed the emperor a letter from President Obama with her credentials, along with a letter of resignation from her predecessor, John Roos, according to the Imperial Household Agency. The emperor usually receives about 40 new ambassadors each year.
Kennedy will represent the U.S. at a time when the Obama administration is making Asia a foreign-policy priority via what it calls a strategic and economic “rebalancing.” The administration is working toward a trade alliance, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, meant to anchor the U.S. within the world’s fastest-growing economic region.
The U.S. is also seeking to bolster its strategic alliance with Japan as the countries respond to China’s growing military and economic muscle in the region and the threat from North Korea’s nuclear program. Japan and China are embroiled in a territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea.
Kennedy, who studied Japanese history and holds a law degree, first visited Japan in 1978 when she traveled to Hiroshima with her uncle, the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy. She also spent her honeymoon in Japan, visiting Nara and Kyoto.