Japan’s new U.S. ambassador, Rahm Emanuel, arrived in the country on Sunday, giving Tokyo its first American envoy in 2½ years.
Emanuel, a former Chicago Mayor who also served as chief of staff under President Barack Obama, tweeted a photo of his arrival in Japan with his wife.
“Amy and I are excited to have arrived in Japan and are eager to meet the people of Japan as we travel throughout the country,” he wrote.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Emanuel, 62, last month, making him Japan’s first official ambassador since William Hagerty left the post in July 2019.
The decision to nominate Emanuel, known for his sharp tongue — and for having the ear of President Joe Biden — signals the importance the administration places on the U.S. alliance with Japan as Washington looks to confront the challenges presented by rival Beijing.
The newly minted ambassador used his confirmation hearings to call the U.S.-Japan alliance “the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” adding that his top priority would be to deepen those ties — especially amid China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
“China aims to conquer through division,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October. “America’s strategy is security through unity. That regional unity is built on the shoulders of the U.S.-Japan alliance.”
In an interview earlier this month with the Yomiuri Shimbun, Emanuel heaped more praise on the alliance, but said that “it has to be strengthened at all times and nurtured for the future.”
But Emanuel has been a divisive pick, especially among the left-leaning members of his Democratic Party, facing withering criticism and charges of a cover-up over his handling of a white police officer’s killing of Black teenager Laquan McDonald during his time as Chicago mayor in 2014.
Known for his bare-knuckle political confrontations, Emanuel — who once reportedly emulated a scene from “The Godfather” by sending his enemy a dead fish — will be an unusual fit in the more reserved and polite Tokyo.
Still, Japan is expected to be pleased with the pick, since Emanuel is known to have developed a close relationship with Biden while he was vice president under Obama, providing Tokyo with what could amount to a direct line to the White House.
As a former Obama administration official, he brings “experience and policy chops” to a job where he can “hit the ground running,” the Chicago Tribune quoted an unidentified White House official as saying in August.
“There’s not a meeting in the Situation Room he wasn’t a part of when he worked as chief of staff,” the official said. “He has a deep understanding of how to get things done in the Capitol and long working relationships with Democrats and Republicans in Congress.”
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