US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy Holds Press Conference

On December 17, US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, held a press conference at the Japan National Press Club by invitation of the club. Kennedy has been serving as US ambassador to Japan since November 19, 2014, and her press conference was approximately one month after her one year anniversary. Ambassador Kennedy talked about many issues in her speech and in the Q&A, including the Japanese security legislation, the TPP, Okinawa, the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, environmental issues, terrorism and refugees.

Kennedy emphasized that the partnership between the US and Japan is stronger than ever. On security, she said that due to the passage of the security legislation and revisions to the defense guidelines, a solid foundation for the future cooperation between the US and Japan had been created.

On Okinawa, she said that the US is working hard to reduce the impact of the bases, and that US officials understand how important the issue is to Japan. She added that the current plan to relocate the Futenma base is the best plan, and that it should be carried out as soon as possible. She made reassurances that once the Futenma base moves out of Naha, the situation will improve. She said Japan and US are at a turning point and the next few years will be especially critical.

On the topic of the TPP, Kennedy assured the audience that the agreement will create good jobs and increase exports, despite the fact that there are many in the US who think the TPP will deprive the country of jobs. During her speech, she also emphatically stated: “Yes, Congress will pass the TPP.” In response, a Japanese reporter asked her why she is so optimistic about the TPP given that the US has entered a long political campaign and that members from both the Democratic and Republican parties oppose TPP. Kennedy admitted the general difficulty of trade negotiations, saying “trade agreements have never been easy.” However, she is confident that the TPP will be ratified because “President Obama is absolutely committed to this agreement.” She went on to say that he has a very strong record of success on issues he cares about. Therefore,  she has no doubt that at the end of the day, the TPP will pass. But she added “As far as the politics, that’s something else.” One reporter asked a question about the Japanese farmers who are afraid of losing business due to international competition. Kennedy responded that Japanese farmers produce amazing products and that many farmers Use innovative methods. Also, she said she had seen how committed young, Japanese farmers were to their careers, and that Japan will be successful with the TPP.

When a reporter asked her if she thought President Obama should visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki when he visits Japan for the G7 summit next May. Kennedy responded that President Obama is committed to achieving a world without nuclear weapons, but that she could not speculate on his visit since presidential scheduling is extremely complicated. Kennedy participated in the annual peace ceremony held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August this year and has also visited the two locations in person.Hiroshima and Nagasaki have a personal meaning to her since one of President Kennedy’s proudest achievements were the nuclear test ban treaties signed during his administration. Ambassador Kennedy said that “visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki is one of the most powerful experiences that anyone can have.” She also said that she thinks “anyone who goes there feels a renewed commitment to work for peace in anyway that [they] can.”

A reporter asked Kennedy a question about the recent refugee crisis: “Syrian refugees are flowing into Europe. There was a terrorist attack in Paris. Even in the presidential election campaign, the refugee issue is in the spotlight right now. It is a political issue in Japan as well. I appreciate your perspective on the refugee issue. Thank you very much.”

Kennedy stated that Syrian refugees face “a huge crisis” and that “this issue is going to be with us for some time.” She added that the United States is working hard to improve the lives of refugees and support them, as is Japan, whose contributions are appreciated by the US. Kennedy said that President Obama has been very clear that the United States is committed to destroying ISIL and that the US must welcome refugees and not discriminate against Muslim Americans. Moreover, the United States has an obligation to work to end the underlying conflict that is causing the refugee crisis and to help the families who were forced to leave their homes.


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