U.S. Biden taps Kennedy, ex-envoy to Japan, to be ambassador to Australia

Dec 17 , 2021. 24 hours ago – 10:42 KYODO NEWS

Combined photo shows former U.S. envoy to Japan Caroline Kennedy (L) and former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan. (Getty/Kyodo)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Wednesday tapped Caroline Kennedy, a former U.S. envoy to Japan and daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, to serve as the ambassador to Australia.

The appointment of the high-profile figure to the Australian ambassadorship indicates the emphasis the Biden administration is placing on Canberra, which has emerged as a key U.S. ally in pushing back against China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

At the same time, former Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan was named as envoy to the Central American nation of Belize.

The nominations require Senate approval. Many of Biden’s earlier announced nominations, including his pick for U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, have yet to be confirmed.

Kennedy, 64, was U.S. ambassador to Japan from 2013 to 2017 and contributed to historic events for the two countries — then U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, which was devastated by the 1945 U.S. atomic bombing, and then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s trip to Pearl Harbor, the site of the 1941 Japanese attack that drew the United States into World War II.

In November this year, she was awarded Japan’s Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun — the highest honor for which foreigners are eligible — for enhancing bilateral ties and promoting friendship.

Kennedy is also an attorney and has published best-selling books on law, civics and poetry, according to the White House. She also serves as the honorary president of a foundation providing support to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, dedicated to the 35th president who was assassinated in 1963.

Kwan, 41, is among the most successful figure skaters in U.S. history, having won 43 championships, including five world and nine national titles as well as two Olympic medals, according to the White House.

She became the first U.S. public diplomacy envoy in 2006 and for a decade traveled extensively on behalf of the U.S. State Department to engage youth around the world on social and educational issues, it said.