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COVER STORY | ACCJ EVENT | ENVOY

January 2014

Welcome Ambassador Kennedy
New envoy to Japan addresses ACCJ luncheon

By Megan Waters
ACCJ Journal editor-in-chief
Photos by Antony Tran

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy addressed an audience of almost 500 at the ACCJ’s “Welcome Luncheon for U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy.” Co-organized with the America-Japan Society, the sell-out luncheon event was held at the Hotel Okura, Tokyo on November 27.

Kennedy believes the event was one of a series that are symbolic of the larger US–Japan relationship, which is now at a vital moment as the United States rebalances its ties to Asia.

“Relations are at an all-time high; we are making real progress in key areas of our alliance; and the partnership is truly a global one,” said Kennedy.

“Japan is our most important ally in the region, and Japan has no truer friend than America.

“We are bound by a common history and common values. Our countries have overcome a difficult past to embrace a promising future.

“There are deep and profound economic, strategic, and cultural ties, and our societies share a commitment to freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.”

Further, she emphasized that Japan and the United States are partners in diplomatic and humanitarian efforts around the world.

She highlighted the efforts of the two countries in working together to solve the challenges in the Middle East, as well as the endeavor of Japan’s Self Defense Forces and the US military to deliver food, water, and medical supplies to those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

She paid tribute to her father, the late President John F. Kennedy, who “worked hard to strengthen the US–Japan relationship at a difficult time.”

She believes this serves as a reminder that we can truly create a better world by focusing on the things that unite us instead of those that divide us.

“Change takes work. It takes courage. And it takes perseverance,” she added.

“Our parents and grandparents built the United States–Japan Alliance through countless acts of reconciliation, friendship, courage, and commitment.

“Now it’s our turn to continue this work so that we can pass this alliance on to our children even stronger than it is now.”

On a visit to western Tokyo’s Yokota Air Base, Kennedy was impressed by the close relationship between the American and Japanese military.

“This mutual respect and close communication are vital to our strategic partnership and evident to every visitor. That’s why this relationship has underwritten the peace, security, and prosperity of the Asia–Pacific region for more than six decades.”

This close working relationship was highlighted during the November two-plus-two meeting held in Tokyo for the first time.

She said that work is underway to revise the Bilateral Defense Cooperation Guidelines for the first time since 1997, and to expand the scope of the two countries’ mutual cooperation.

“We support the evolution of Japan’s security policies as they create a new National Security Strategy, establish a National Security Council, and take steps to protect national security secrets,” she said.

“The Japanese can see every day that America is here for them as a partner in the defense of Japan. And Americans can take satisfaction in knowing that their forward deployment helps keep America safe, and Asia peaceful and more prosperous.”

Kennedy believes that Japan is currently experiencing a moment of opportunity and the country is enjoying political stability, economic renewal, and is eager to increase trade and investment with the United States.

She emphasized that the two countries’ economic ties are broad and deep, and the nations’ economies are closely intertwined.

In addition, she believes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will bring numerous benefits to the whole Asia–Pacific region.

“This comprehensive, high-quality trade agreement was greatly enhanced by Japan’s participation. It’s complex and difficult, yet critical to our overall Asia–Pacific rebalance both economically and strategically.

“A strong Japanese economy is in the interest of the United States, and the TPP is an important lever in Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe’s domestic policy agenda as well,” she said.

Moreover, she was impressed that Abe used their first meeting to showcase and discuss his commitment to Womenomics.

She pointed out that, according to the International Monetary Fund, if Japan increased the numbers of working women to that of other developed countries, its overall GDP would rise 4 percent.

“I believe the prime minister understands that this is not just a women’s issue. It’s a man’s issue. It’s a family issue, an economic and a national security issue, and it’s a moral issue,” she said.

“And as the first woman to serve as United States Ambassador [to Japan], I am also proud that the political and economic minister-counselors and our army, legal and press attaches, as well as my chief of staff are women—and I’m looking forward to learning more about the workplace dynamics here in Japan.”

On a visit to the Tohoku region, Kennedy was deeply affected by the scale of the destruction there, yet inspired by the strength and resilience of the people.

She said the visit brought to life the vital role that the TOMODACHI Initiative plays in connecting these communities to the broader world. She believes it is important to meet the goals of doubling international student exchange by 2020, as well as of increasing language study and travel.

“Our young people have so much in common,” she said.

“Those of us in positions of seniority in this alliance need to make sure that young people have opportunities for collaborative composition that are varied and meaningful; in the arts, science, education, sports, and business. So now it’s up to us.

“I am grateful for so many things; most of all this opportunity to serve my country, to learn from you, to work with you and with the people of Japan, and to bring our two great nations even closer together.”

To watch Ambassador Kennedy’s speech at the ACCJ’s “Welcome Luncheon for U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy,” please visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUD6381-G5U.