President Joe Biden has appointed Rahm Emanuel, a former Chicago mayor and White House chief of staff, to be the United States’ ambassador to Japan.
On Friday, the White House announced that Biden would nominate Emanuel as well as two other candidates for top diplomatic positions: R. Nicholas Burns, a retired member of the Foreign Service, as US ambassador to China, and Michael Battle, a former diplomat and chaplain, as US ambassador to Tanzania.
All of the nominations are subject to confirmation by the Senate. They come during a time of increasing tensions between China and the United States, which has criticized the ascendant country’s human rights record and sought to limit its influence.
According to NPR, Biden, who has emphasised US diplomatic engagement, has been hesitant to fill ambassadorships in comparison to prior administrations. The White House has blamed the slow pace of selections on Republican senators’ resistance.
Previously, Biden proposed former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake as ambassador to Turkey. He also nominated Cindy McCain, the wife of late Arizona Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., to be the United States’ representative to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Biden has stated his aim to place US diplomacy in the hands of “true professionals.”
Burns has a long history with the State Department, including stints as undersecretary of state for political affairs and as ambassador to NATO and Greece. Battle has also served as the United States’ envoy to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and as the United States’ ambassador to the African Union in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia.
However, former White House global engagement director and ambassador Brett Bruen criticised Biden’s selection of Emanuel, a three-term congressman known for his aggressive demeanour.
“Really guys? Read the room,” he said on Twitter. “Now is not the moment to be sending obnoxious Americans overseas as ambassador.”
According to the American Foreign Service Association’s “Ambassador Tracker,” Biden has made 57 appointments to 189 positions as of Aug. 11. Of those, 45% have been career Foreign Service officers and 54% have been political appointments.