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Kennedy bids farewell, thanks Abe for supporting U.S.-Japan alliance

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy expressed her
gratitude to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his contribution to
strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance in her farewell message
released Monday.

"I want to thank Prime Minister Abe and the members of his
government for working to strengthen our 'alliance of hope' and for
sharing President (Barack) Obama's belief in the 'power of
reconciliation,'" said Kennedy, who is set to leave Japan on
Wednesday, in a video message released by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Kennedy cited Abe's visit last December to Pearl Harbor, which
was attacked by Japan in 1941, and for arranging Obama's historic
visit last May to Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an
atomic bomb in 1945.

"Most of all I want to thank him, and Foreign Minister Kishida,
for welcoming President Obama to Hiroshima and for visiting Pearl
Harbor last month," she said.

Touching upon Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. forces in
Japan, Kennedy said she is "grateful" to the people of Okinawa for
helping her better understand their struggle.

Pointing to the return of thousands of hectares of land from the
U.S. military, she said, "I am proud that our governments were able
to conclude the largest land return in 30 years."

The ambassador also thanked people who helped her to find
Tsuyako Matsumoto, a woman who had sent dolls in 1962 to her father,
then U.S. President John F. Kennedy, saying it was the dolls that
"sparked my love of Japan."

Praising young Japanese people's participation in the
revitalization of Tohoku, an area devastated by the 2011 earthquake
and tsunami, Kennedy invited Japanese students to her country,
saying, "The future of our alliance depends on you."

She closed her message by saying, "I hope to come back and visit

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese
government's top spokesman, expressed gratitude and praise for
Kennedy's contributions, saying she had aided in the construction of
a solid Japan-U.S. alliance.

"A series of historic events that contributed to the deepening
of Japan-U.S. ties could not have been successful without Ambassador
Kennedy's efforts," Suga said at a press conference, citing the
respective leaders' visits to Hiroshima and Pearl Harbor and Abe's
address before a joint session of the U.S. Congress in April 2015.

"We hope she will continue to contribute to the strengthening of
Japan-U.S. ties as a friend of Japan," Suga said. (Jan. 16)

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (L) chats with Akie Abe (C), the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R), after they had dinner together at a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo's Ginza district on Jan. 11, 2017. Kennedy will leave her post ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald Trump as the new U.S. president.