It would be interesting to hear what Kennedy has to say about the US blockade of Cuba given that her father brought the world to the brink of nuclear destruction over Cuba during the October Crisis of 1962. – Ed.
Joe Biden has nominated Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F Kennedy, to be the US ambassador to Australia.
Kennedy, 63, a member of one of America’s most famous political families, has long been considered a leading candidate for a high-profile envoy position after she threw her support behind Biden’s presidential campaign.
In a statement, Kennedy called Australia “a country that is as vital to our future security and prosperity.”
She added: “I look forward to collaborating with the government of Australia to strengthen our alliance, improve global health and increase vaccine access during this terrible pandemic and to address the urgent climate crisis. I am excited to get to know the Australian people, learn about their fascinating country and share with them what I love most about America.”
Kennedy previously served as US ambassador to Japan under Barack Obama, from 2013 to 2017. She was the first female US ambassador to Japan and in a statement announcing the new position in Australia, the White House lauded her work there.
“She advanced the realignment of US Forces in Okinawa, promoted women’s empowerment in Japan, and increased student exchange between the US and Japan,” it said. “In 2017, she founded the International Poetry Exchange Project to virtually connect students in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and the Bronx through the power of the spoken word.”
Last month Kennedy was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun, the highest Japanese honor for which foreigners are eligible.
Kennedy was an important supporter of Biden in his campaign to be president. In a Boston Globe editorial to announce her endorsement, Kennedy praised Biden for his public service over his long career as a public servant and recalled him visiting Tokyo while she was ambassador.
“He radiated American optimism and generosity of spirit. He made clear that America would always stand by our allies, and that we were committed to keeping the region peaceful and prosperous,” she wrote in the column.
Kennedy’s appointment comes at a time when Australia and the US have been deepening their military ties amid increasing concern about what they see as China’s more assertive conduct.
In September Australia, the UK and the US formed a security partnership called Aukus, in which the countries are planning how Australia can acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines.
The Australian foreign minister, Marise Payne, said she warmly welcomed the nomination, saying the alliance between Australia and the US had “never been more central to the interests of both countries”.
If confirmed by the US Senate, Kennedy “would bring deep political networks in Washington and a keen understanding of our Indo-Pacific region,” Payne said.
The Australian opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, said Kennedy was a “great” choice. He said the seniority of the nomination reflected the importance that “Australia’s most important ally” placed on the alliance.
“We have a lot of work to do in the future – a lot of work on climate change where President Biden’s vision is similar to the vision that I have,” Albanese said.
“An incoming Labor government would look forward to working on climate change as an important national security issue in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Biden’s announcement follows talks between Payne and the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on the sidelines of a G7 foreign and development ministers’ meeting in Liverpool late last week.
Payne and Blinken “agreed on the importance of having a Senate-confirmed Ambassador in place in Canberra as soon as possible in light of the scope and scale of shared challenges we face”.
Without an ambassador in place in Canberra, senior diplomat Mike Goldman has been serving as the US embassy’s charge d’affaires. The ambassador under the Trump administration, Arthur Culvahouse, left Canberra in January in line with convention.
At the same time Biden also announced that former top ice skater Michelle Kwan was being nominated to be ambassador to Belize. Kwan is the most decorated figure skater in US sporting history, but has spent many years working on behalf of the US state department in public diplomacy, especially focused on youth.