Obama nominates Caroline Kennedy as first woman ambassador to Japan

Former first daughter Caroline Kennedy would be first woman to serve in role if confirmed

Pres. Obama has nominated Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador to Japan. (STAN HONDA/AFP/GettyImages)

President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated former first daughter Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador to Japan, offering the most famous living member of a prominent American family a new role of service to country.

The White House notified the Senate of the nomination and was planning to announce it later Wednesday, two people aware of the decision told The Associated Press on a condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to reveal it publicly ahead of the announcement.

If Kennedy is confirmed, she will be the first woman to serve in a role that has proved vital to U.S.-Asian relations. She would also bring a third generation of Kennedy’s into U.S. diplomacy. Her grandfather Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. was President Franklin D. Roosevelt's ambassador to Britain, while her aunt Jean Kennedy Smith was ambassador to Ireland under President Bill Clinton.

“It turns out that the Kennedy’s have a really important legacy in U.S. – Japan relations,” Dr. Jennifer Lind, associate professor of Government at Dartmouth College, told Al Jazeera. “When you think Caroline Kennedy being nominated is sort of random, it’s really not.”

Lind, who has U.S.-Japan relations for over a decade, and has spent the last few years researching the Kennedy’s.

“She’s a name that’s going to attract a lot of attention in Japan, a lot of attention to the U.S. Embassy, and for the most part the leaders in Japan are in continuing and deepening the U.S.-Japan relationship.”

Caroline Kennedy has been heavily criticized for not having enough political experience to fill a role that has seen political giants like former Vice President Walter Mondale, former House Speaker Tom Foley and former Senate Majority Leaders Mike Mansfield and Howard Baker.

She considered running for office after Clinton resigned the New York Senate seat to serve as Secretary of State. Kennedy eventually withdrew from consideration to fill a seat once held by her uncle Robert F. Kennedy, citing personal reasons.

The news of the nomination came across mid-wednesday via a press release from The White House, in which President Obama also nominated Marcel Lettre as Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Intelligence, Robert Simon as as Associate Director for Energy and Enviornment and Betty Sutton as Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

"These fine public servants both bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles," Obama said in the press release. "Our nation will be well-served by these individuals, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come."

Al Jazeera and wire services

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