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Interview with Amb. Kennedy: NTA return “an important step”

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy gave an interview to Jiji Press at the U.S. Embassy on Dec. 21. She said that the return of the U.S. forces’ Northern Training Area (NTA) in Okinawa “will reduce the U.S. military footprint in Okinawa by 20%. This is an important step in reducing the impact on the Okinawan people,” stressing the significance of the return. Regarding the accident of the U.S. Marines’ Osprey transport aircraft, she stated: “I regret that this has caused concern. Safety is the top priority,” indicating her determination to ensure safety.


Kennedy has visited Okinawa seven times since taking up her post. She will attend the NTA return ceremony in Nago City on Dec. 22. Looking back at the murder of a woman by a civilian employee of the U.S. forces last April, she remarked: “This was a very difficult year (for the Okinawan people). I am truly grateful for their friendship and cooperation.”


Kennedy welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii later this month, noting that “it will clearly demonstrate the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance. I look forward to accompanying the Prime Minister with President Obama on this visit.” She lauded the Pearl Harbor visit and President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima as “historic moments” made possible by “the decades of friendship, cooperation, and trust which have made the Japan-U.S. alliance the strongest in the world.”


Commenting on concerns about the possible withdrawal of U.S. forces after Donald Trump becomes president, Kennedy pointed out that “Prime Minister Abe was the first foreign leader Mr. Trump met (after he was elected). I am confident that the next administration will continue to attach great importance to the Japan-U.S. alliance.”


The Ambassador, who will return to the U.S. in January after serving in her post for more than three years, stressed that she has been very fortunate to have been able to work in this “wonderful country” as the representative of the Obama administration.


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