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Biden's Asia policy

Biden picks Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan

Former Chicago mayor and chief of staff to Obama to handle key alliance

Rahm Emanuel, who is expected to be named U.S. ambassador to Japan, was mayor of Chicago until 2019. Before that, he was President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff.    © Reuters

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Joe Biden is set to nominate Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, as U.S. ambassador to Japan, Nikkei has learned.

A formal announcement is expected soon, according to multiple Japanese and American sources. Emanuel will take office after Senate approval.

Emanuel, a 61-year-old Chicago native, was named White House chief of staff by Obama in 2009. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 2003 through 2008. Before that he served as a policy adviser to the Clinton administration.

Emanuel left the Obama White House to run in a Chicago mayoral election and went on to serve in the post for two terms from 2011 to 2019.

A hard-charging political operative, Emanuel won Biden's trust for his performance as Obama's top policy coordinator. Given that Emanuel is not considered a Japan expert, Biden is believed to have tapped him for his political skills and connections.

The Japan ambassadorship has been vacant for nearly two years since William Hagerty left in July 2019 to run for Senate. Former President Donald Trump named Kenneth Weinstein, former head of the Hudson Institute think tank, to the post but the nomination was shelved after Trump lost his reelection bid to Biden last November.

Charge d' Affaires Joseph Young is currently acting ambassador to Tokyo. Japan is a key partner in the administration's pursuit of a "free and open Indo-Pacific," and Emanuel will be the point-person in important negotiations such as force realignment.

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