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New Public Affairs Office a ‘significant step’: US Ambassador

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-09-25

On September 14 the United States Consulate held an opening ceremony for the Consulate's new Public Affairs Office, inviting the Japanese media and foreign press to attend. Ambassador Thomas S. Foley was on hand to take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony and delivered a brief, opening speech to commemorate the occasion.

The Ambassador referred to the new office as a "significant step" to create and enhance better relationships with the community. "Here in Okinawa I am delighted to note that American public affairs activities has increased over the years," he further commented.

Although the U.S. Consulate on Okinawa has already coordinated many cultural and academic related events in the past, this will be the first time a position at the Consulate will be open solely for the purpose of conducting work in public affairs since the reversion of Okinawa in 1972. Taking over the newly formed position as Consul is Karen Kelley, an 11-year veteran of the Foreign Service. Kelley told reporters that she was very honored to serve as the new Consul of Public Affairs, and that she looked forward to learning more about Okinawa.

"I hope to develop a base of contacts within the community and identify which areas of interest each group has," Kelley commented one week after taking her post.

Kelley has spent nine of her 11 years working for the Foreign Service in Japan at American Centers in Tokyo and in Osaka, experiences that will serve her well as Consul of Public Affairs on Okinawa.

Consul Kelley's job will include inviting American guest speakers from various fields to speak to different organizations in the community, coordinating special cultural activities, and promoting other projects to help local citizens better understand American culture.

Many people who attended the post-ceremony party at the Consul General's home in Urasoe last Tuesday thought the new office was a positive step towards future Okinawa-U.S. relations. Some members of the local business community expressed the hopes that the expansion of public affairs activities will have a positive impact on Okinawa leading up to the 2000 G8 Summit.

Consul General Robert Luke told the media that the new Public Affairs Office had spent several years in the planning stages and that he hopes the media will view the new office as a "credible source of information."

Ambassador Foley addresses Ryukyu Forum

On the same day at a previous speaking engagement, Ambassador Foley addressed the Ryukyu Forum in Naha and discussed some issues concerning the U.S. military presence in Okinawa.

"The United States stands for peace and prosperity throughout the Pacific region. We stand for peace and prosperity throughout the world." he said. "Okinawa is the cornerstone for our alliance with Japan."

The ambassador expressed his understanding of the Okinawan people by saying that a "heavy burden" has been placed on the people of Okinawa. He then explained the progress SACO has made through reducing the impact of the U.S. military presence on the island to help ease the stress put on the local population.

Ambassador Foley also talked about the upcoming G8 Summit and its expected positive impacts on the local economy. He made several references to the new age of information-technology and said he believed Okinawa would prosper in the new millennium.

In closing, Foley said, "It is Okinawa's chance to emerge once again as a gateway. And this time not only to Asia, but also to the broader world."

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