Kennedy eager to make "many friends" as envoy to Japan

Caroline Kennedy, in her first public appearance as U.S. ambassador to Japan, pledged Tuesday to forge closer bilateral ties by making many friends and enhancing mutual understanding.

"I look forward to meeting as many people as we can, making many friends...and studying the history and culture of this beautiful country," Kennedy told reporters in Washington, ahead of her departure for Tokyo later this week.

"U.S.-Japan relationship is a cornerstone of the regional prosperity, stability and security," the only surviving child of the late President John F. Kennedy said at a welcome event hosted by the Japanese Embassy.

Kennedy described Japan as "a strong partner of the United States."

Kennedy, 55, accompanied by her husband, designer Edwin Schlossberg, attended the event at the official residence of Japanese Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae.

In the event, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also addressed an audience of about 500 people, including many dignitaries with bilateral ties.

Kerry said he was "excited" to see Kennedy representing the United States in Japan "at a critical time," referring to challenges the new U.S. envoy will face within the Asia-Pacific region, such as efforts to deal with North Korea, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and climate change.

Kennedy took the post as the United States faces many challenging issues in its relationship with Japan, including negotiations on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact and the controversial realignment of U.S. military forces in Japan.

Kennedy, an attorney described in U.S. media as a diplomatic novice, is also expected to deal with the strained ties between Japan and China, a major trade partner of the United States, over Beijing's claim to the Japanese-administered Senkaku group of islets in the East China Sea.

Meanwhile Kennedy released a video message to people in Japan through the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

"When I was 20, I accompanied my uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy, on a trip to Hiroshima. It left me with a profound desire to work for a better, more peaceful world," she said in the video posted earlier in the day on the embassy's website.

A strong ally of President Barack Obama, Kennedy was confirmed as the top U.S. envoy to Japan at the Senate on Oct. 16.

The new U.S. ambassador is expected to arrive in Japan on Friday and attend a ceremony with Japanese Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace next Tuesday.