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Kennedy to work to reduce U.S. presence in Okinawa

NAHA, Okinawa -- Ambassador Caroline Kennedy pledged to work to quickly reduce the impact of U.S. forces on Okinawa, which hosts three-quarters of U.S. military facilities in Japan and where doctors once saved her father's life.

Kennedy met Wednesday with Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, who raised hopes in December of an end to years of wrangling by approving the relocation of a U.S. Marine base from the center of a crowded city to a more remote location on the island.

"The United States is committed to working with you and the government of Japan to make that happen as rapidly as possible," Kennedy said at a reception with local politicians in the prefectural capital of Naha.

Her visit comes as Japan seeks to bolster its military ties with the United States at a time when it is embroiled in a territorial dispute with China. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry restated to his counterpart, Fumio Kishida, that the United States is committed to upholding its obligation to defend Japanese-administered territory, including in the East China Seas.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that I wouldn't be here as ambassador if it wasn't for Okinawa," Kennedy said, referring to her father, John F. Kennedy, who fell ill on a visit as a congressman. "He became very ill and was airlifted to Okinawa, where our family thought he was going to die. His life was saved when he came to recover on this beautiful island."

While Kennedy was presented with a bouquet of flowers at an earlier meeting with Nakaima, she was also met by demonstrators protesting the U.S. presence and the base relocation. Okinawa remains among the most contentious issues in the bilateral relationship. U.S. envoys have apologized for crimes committed by servicemen and face anger over noise, pollution and accidents tied to the military bases.


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