Japan investigates death threats to US Ambassador Kennedy

AP News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2015 7:57 PM
Japan investigates death threats to US Ambassador Kennedy

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese police are investigating phone calls threatening to kill U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and another American envoy, authorities said Wednesday.

The calls to the U.S. Embassy targeted Kennedy and Alfred Magleby, the U.S. consul general on the southern island of Okinawa, according to an Okinawa police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on an investigation by Tokyo authorities.

Kennedy, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, arrived in Tokyo in November 2013 as the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan. She was appointed by President Barack Obama after helping with his re-election campaign.

Tokyo police declined to comment on the threats. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. government takes threats to American diplomats seriously.

"We are working with the Japanese government to ensure the necessary measures are in place. We will not comment on the specific details of any threats or the steps we take to address them," she said.

A State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss security precautions, said that the Tokyo police department provides an armed security detail for Kennedy.

Earlier this month, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was slashed in the face and wrist by an anti-U.S. activist in Seoul and was hospitalized for several days.

Kennedy, 57, is the sole survivor of a family repeatedly touched by tragedy.

She was five days short of her sixth birthday when her father was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. Robert F. Kennedy, the uncle who stepped in to serve as a sort of surrogate father after JFK's assassination, was himself shot and killed five years later. After losing her mother to cancer in 1994, Caroline lost her brother John in a 1999 plane crash at age 38.

Kennedy has drawn considerable attention since arriving in Japan. She has made well-publicized visits to the Fukushima nuclear plant devastated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and to the annual commemorations of the U.S. atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Okinawa is home to about half of the 50,000 American troops based in Japan, and residents have frequently complained about crime, noise and other issues related to the U.S. bases. The U.S. government wants to relocate one base, the Marine Corps Futenma air station, to another area of Okinawa, but many people want it moved completely off the island.

Kennedy visited Okinawa in February last year in an attempt to win support for the base relocation plan, and pledged that Washington would do its best to reduce the burden of its heavy troop presence.

Japanese media reports said the death threats came last month from a caller speaking in English, and that police were looking into the case on suspicion of blackmailing. No other details were known.

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Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Nancy Benac in Washington contributed to this report.