For most of her life, Caroline Kennedy has shied away from leading a public life in the limelight of her father’s political legacy. But now, she’s the most high-profile U.S. ambassador in the world, in a country her father fought against as a young Navy lieutenant during World War II.
“I think that my story in a way is a great metaphor for the U.S.-Japan alliance,” Kennedy told “Politics Confidential” during a rare interview on the sidelines of President Obama’s official trip to Japan.
“My mother often told me … he had hoped to make a state visit to Japan in his second term,” Kennedy said of her father. “It would have been the first by a sitting U.S. president. And so, I felt, on a personal level, that it was really kind of moving for me, and also … to hear people that are, you know, older talk about President Kennedy and his legacy has been … a very moving experience.”
The United States’ history with Japan, and the strong alliance that has developed after being staunch enemies in World War II, is personal to Kennedy. Her father was nearly killed during World War II when a U.S. military boat he was commanding was sunk by the Japanese.
“My father invited the PT boat captain to his inauguration and I've made contact with his family,” Kennedy said. “What I'm really … eager to work on is to create the same kind of ties and relationships for the next 70 years among young people today to keep this alliance as strong as it has been.”
On the subject of politics, Kennedy said she will “absolutely” support Hillary Clinton if she decides to run for president in 2016 but qualified that “two years is a really long time in politics.”
“I'm sure she's looking forward to being a grandmother, I know she's got to decide soon,” Kennedy said. “So, you know, I hope so.”
In the 2008 Democratic primary, Kennedy endorsed then-Sen. Obama over Clinton, saying at the time that he had the potential to be a president like her father. Kennedy said Obama has lived up to her expectations.
“I think he's been a great president,” Kennedy said. “And I couldn't be prouder to serve as his ambassador.”
Kennedy now has near-celebrity status in Japan as the United States’ highest-ranking government representative there and said she’s enjoyed getting acquainted with Japanese people and culture in her new role.
One of her favorite things to do is to take runs around the grounds of Japan’s Imperial Palace.
“I love to run around the Imperial Palace,” she said. “I mean, it's just such an incredible thing to look at … and just think that people have been living there for hundreds of years.”
Asked if she gets recognized by people during her runs, Kennedy jokingly said it depends on “how fast or slow I'm moving.”
Kennedy also discussed the importance of the U.S.-Japanese alliance and said the president’s trip to the region is significant to “modernize” the United States’ relations within an evolving region – of which China’s economic and military rise to dominance is front and center.
“I think that a peaceful rise of China is in everyone's interest, and good relations between Japan and China are in the United States' interest, good relations between the United States and China are in Japan's interest,” Kennedy said.
“We have such strong allies in this region. The United States is a pacific power,” Kennedy added. “So I think creating a regional framework that the Unites States and Japan can sort of lead in together and provide stability and prosperity for this region is really the goal.”
To find out what Kennedy has to say about the controversy she stirred up on Twitter over Japan’s tradition of dolphin killing, check out this episode of “Politics Confidential.”
ABC News’ Devin Dwyer and Tom Thornton contributed to this episode.