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Tokyo (AFP) – Caroline Kennedy, the lone surviving child of slain U.S. president John F. Kennedy, on Wednesday called Tokyo “one of our greatest allies and closest friends” as she takes up the post of U.S. ambassador to Japan.

The diplomatic novice is filling a key role as Tokyo remains embroiled in territorial tussles with China and South Korea, while Washington works to seal a huge Asia-Pacific free trade pact.

Kennedy, 55, will be the first female U.S. ambassador to Japan, which consistently ranks lower than other wealthy nations in women’s empowerment in politics and business.

The scion of U.S. political royalty said ahead of her arrival in Japan on Friday that she would work to boost the Tokyo-Washington alliance.

“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 Wednesday. “As ambassador, I look forward to fostering the deep friendship, strategic alliance and economic partnership between our countries.”

Kennedy added that Japan was “one of our greatest allies and closest friends.”

“Together, our two countries have done much good for the world — and we can do so much more,” she added.

Kennedy said she has long felt personal ties with Japan after accompanying her uncle, the late senator Edward Kennedy, on a trip to Hiroshima when she was 20 years old.

In 1945, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the city and the port of Nagasaki in the final chapter of WWII.

“It left me with a profound desire to work for a better, more peaceful world,” Kennedy said of the Hiroshima visit.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of her father’s assassination in Dallas.

The video message can be seen at http://japan.usembassy.gov/e/p/tp-20131116-01.html.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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