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Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012

First Asian-American senator to push Japan ties


WASHINGTON — Democrat Mazie Hirono, the first Asian-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate, is pledging continued efforts to keep U.S. relations with Japan strong.

"I will continue to work hard to keep that friendship strong," said Hirono, who was elected Nov. 6 by voters in Hawaii.

Hirono, 65, born in Fukushima Prefecture, won her Senate seat after serving three terms in the House of Representatives.

"I hope to be able to visit Japan as a United States senator," Hirono said. She said she intends to continue efforts to promote exchanges between members of Congress and Diet members.

Hirono moved to Hawaii in her early childhood with her mother after a poor life in Japan. "Our early years in Hawaii were very hard," Hirono said. Through her tough times in Japan and in Hawaii, she learned the challenges immigrants face and the importance of respecting other cultures.

Hirono said she knows that people in Fukushima "are still very much struggling to get back to life" as it was before last year's disasters struck.

Asked how she feels to become the first Asian-American woman in the Senate, Hirono said she is "very honored."

"But of course that's not the reason that people voted for me here," she said.

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