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Ambassador Kennedy vows “to continue supporting reconstruction of Tohoku”

Interviewer: Managing editor Motoo Suzuki


On Sept. 17, U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy was interviewed by Kahoku Shimpo in Kesennuma City. Regarding the reconstruction of the Tohoku region devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake five and half years ago, the ambassador said, “The U.S. will continue contributing to reconstruction.” Referring to the bond between the Tohoku region and her father, President John F. Kennedy, the ambassador showed her intention to further deepen relations between the U.S. and Japan.


Question: This is your sixth visit to Tohoku since your arrival in Japan three years ago.


Ambassador: First of all, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the victims of the 10th typhoon of the year that caused severe damage to areas under reconstruction. It is not easy to reconstruct the disaster-stricken areas, but every time I visit the Tohoku region, I am impressed by the unwavering sprit of people who devote themselves to rebuilding housing and reconstructing their communities.


Q: The “TOMODACHI Initiative,” a public-private partnership between Japan and the U.S., is expanding, supporting young people in the disaster-stricken regions in the areas of education and culture.


AMB: A total of about 35,000 young people have received training in the U.S. More than half of them participated from the Tohoku region. Learning about each other’s countries and culture plays an important role in deepening relations between Japan and the U.S. Among American troops who participated in Operation Tomodachi, some are still engaged in charitable activities in the Tohoku region. The U.S. government and American people will remain committed to the reconstruction of Tohoku.


Q: You will participate in “Tour de Tohoku 2016,” a cycling event to support Tohoku’s reconstruction. This was the third year in a row since 2014.


AMB: Participating in this event is a good opportunity for me to realize the resilience of communities in disaster-stricken areas and meet people who still face challenges. I’m impressed by everyone who supports this event.


Q: In May, President Barack Obama made a historic visit to atomic-bombed Hiroshima.


AMB: The president’s visit conveyed across the globe that the U.S. is committed to making advances toward a world without nuclear weapons. His visit was a continuation of the legacy of former President John F. Kennedy who promoted the Limited Test Ban Treaty. It also showed the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance.


Q: During the Pacific War, former President Kennedy was thrown into the ocean when a Japanese Imperial Navy’s destroyer collided with his torpedo boat. After the war, President Kennedy deepened his friendship with the late Kohei Hanami, the destroyer’s commander, who became the mayor of Shiokawa (currently Kitakata City) in Fukushima Prefecture.


AMB: I have long known about the relationship between my father and Mr. Hanami. Last year, I was able to meet Mrs. Hanami. After the war, my father and Mr. Hanami deepened their friendship through exchanging letters. The two men who had gone through the difficult time of the war committed themselves to peace. It was a transformation of hostility into reconciliation. In my own way, as small as it may be, I also want to contribute to the world.


Ambassador Caroline Kennedy: Born on Nov. 27, 1957, in New York City as the first daughter of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy. President Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963. Graduated from Columbia Law School. Lawyer and writer. Appointed U.S. Ambassador to Japan by President Obama. Arrived in November 2013 as the first female U.S. ambassador to Japan. She has one son and two daughters.


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