Report: Biden Picks Former Chicago Mayor Emanuel as Ambassador to Japan

The Associated Press reported that President Joe Biden is expected to nominate former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be the U.S. ambassador to Japan, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The person, who was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter and requested anonymity, said the White House plans to announce Emanuel’s nomination later this month.

Emanuel served three terms in Congress, was Obama’s first White House chief of staff and also served as a senior adviser in the Clinton administration. Biden had considered appointing Emanuel as transportation secretary, but ultimately did not appoint him due to strong opposition from liberals and liberal activists in the Democratic Party.

The White House declined to comment, stressing that any nomination is not final until it is officially announced.

Emanuel, who has served as an informal adviser to the Biden campaign and has been a heavyweight in Democratic politics for much of the past 30 years, was seen as a reward for Biden’s choice of him as ambassador to Japan. The U.S. ambassador to Japan is one of the highest-profile ambassadorial positions.

If confirmed by the Senate, Emanuel could arrive in time for the Tokyo Summer Olympics. For now, Biden wants to increase his focus on the Indo-Pacific region and strengthen U.S.-Japanese relations.

The choice of Emanuel for the post could anger some progressives in the Democratic Party. U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has criticized the handling of the shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white police officer during Emanuel’s tenure as mayor of Chicago.

The Financial Times was the first to report on Biden’s choice of Emanuel.

Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House last month. It was the first visit from a foreign leader since he became U.S. president. Biden will also receive South Korean President Moon Jae-in (Moon Jae-in) on May 21.

As Biden has increased his focus on China, the administration has made it a priority to strengthen ties with partners in the region. Biden has repeatedly called China the United States’ biggest economic competitor and warned Beijing about human rights violations and unfair trade practices.

During a press conference during his visit to the White House, Kan repeatedly referred to the “tough security environment” in East Asia. China under Xi Jinping is flexing its economic and military muscle in East Asia, including military deployments to assert its disputed territorial claims in the region.

Biden, for his part, emphasized the U.S. commitment to Japan’s defense and said the U.S.-Japan alliance will prove that democracies can still prevail and deliver results for their people.