Why Caroline Kennedy is likely to get a warm welcome in Japan (+video)
The Kennedy name is well known in Japan. Ms. Kennedy would be the first female ambassador to the close US ally if her likely appointment is approved.
Despite a lack of experience in foreign policy, or any other kind of politics, Caroline Kennedy looks set to receive a warm reception inÂ JapanÂ if her appointment as the nextÂ USÂ ambassador to the country is confirmed.
â€śThis will be welcomed by the Japanese people. The fact that she is the daughter of J.F.K., who is fondly remembered inÂ Japan, will give her a very positive image,â€ť says Takashi Koyama, a foreign-policy specialist atÂ AkitaÂ InternationalÂ University.Â
Although there are serious issues to be dealt with, from opposition to the presence of American bases on Okinawa to strained relations with an increasingly assertiveÂ China to an unpredictableÂ North Korea, the real day-to-day work will mostly be handled behind the scenes by career diplomats on both sides.Â
â€śIn this age of rapid communications, the real decisions are made at home anyway,â€ť suggests Jun Okumura, a senior analyst at the Eurasia Group. â€śThe ambassadors are largely symbols these days. What it does say is that there are no major problems in theÂ Japan-US relationship; itâ€™s still a safe appointment, like toÂ BritainÂ orÂ France.â€ť
While ambassadorships to such keyÂ US allies, withÂ JapanÂ near the top of the list, have always been something of a thank-you from administrations, the appointment of big election campaign contributors with minimal political experience has become the norm. Ms. Kennedy has no recognized knowledge of, or connection to, Japan.Â
â€śThe present ambassador wasnâ€™t aÂ JapanÂ specialist, either, but heâ€™s done a tremendous job,â€ť says Professor Koyama, referring to John Roos, who has served since the summer of 2009 and was aÂ Silicon ValleyÂ law firm chief executive officer and contributor to President Obamaâ€™s first election campaign.Â In August 2010, Mr. Roos became the firstÂ US ambassador to attend the peace memorial ceremony inÂ Hiroshima.
The following year his star rose further still in JapanÂ due to his work in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident. He was instrumental in implementing Operation Tomodachi, meaning friend in Japanese, which saw large sections of USÂ forces stationed in the country go to work in the disaster zones, conducting search-and-rescue missions, clearing rubble, and making vital supply deliveries, including in areas around the stricken FukushimaÂ Daiichi Nuclear Plant. Roos himself visited a number of towns on the devastated northeast coast and was involved in fundraising for recovery projects.Â
Kennedy was an early and highly active supporter of Mr. Obama in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns.Â
SheÂ will be the first female US ambassador to a country (and in a region) where women are largely notable by their absence in higher political and diplomatic circles.
â€śThe fact sheâ€™s a woman should be good for Japan, and that she hasnâ€™t taken her spouseâ€™s name, which isnâ€™t allowed under Japanese law, could be interesting,â€ť says Mr. Okumura.Â Providing Kennedyâ€™s appointment, which is as yet unconfirmed by the White House, is approved by the Senate, she would arrive inÂ TokyoÂ to take up the post this summer.