Tokyo: Caroline Kennedy, the lone surviving child of slain US president John F Kennedy, today called Japan "our most important ally" in Asia as she takes up the post of ambassador to Japan.
The diplomatic novice is filling a key role as Tokyo is embroiled in territorial tussles with China and South Korea and as the United States seeks to increase its involvement in Asia, including through an ambitious free trade pact.
Kennedy, in the most public role of her adult life, will head to Tokyo on Friday days ahead of the 50th anniversary of her father`s assassination.
"Growing up in a family dedicated to public service, I saw how people can come together to solve challenges through commitment, communication and cooperation," she said in a brief video message posted on the embassy`s website today.
"As ambassador, I look forward to fostering the deep friendship, strategic alliance and economic partnership between our countries.
Kennedy said she has long felt personal ties with Japan after accompanying her uncle, the late senator Ted Kennedy, on a trip to Hiroshima when she was 20 years old.
In 1945, the US dropped atomic bombs on the city and the port of Nagasaki in the final chapter of World War II.
"It left me with a profound desire to work for a better, more peaceful world," Kennedy said of the Hiroshima visit.
Kennedy also addressed a reception at the Japanese embassy in Washington where she pledged to "work as hard as I can to strengthen the alliance."
"As the United States rebalances toward Asia, Japan remains our most important ally. The US-Japan relationship is the cornerstone of regional prosperity, stability and security," Kennedy said, in remarks sure to be studied in South Korea which also considers itself a top US ally.
Secretary of State John Kerry, personally introducing her at the yesterday`s evening reception, recalled that he first met Kennedy when she was a girl at the White House as he worked on Ted Kennedy`s first Senate campaign in 1962.
Kerry, himself a former senator from Massachusetts, recalled that her father had wanted to be the first US president to pay a state visit to Japan. John F Kennedy had been seriously injured by a Japanese destroyer in 1943.