WASHINGTON — President Biden on Friday nominated R. Nicholas Burns, a veteran State Department officer and former ambassador to NATO, as ambassador to China and Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and former President Barack Obama’s first chief of staff, as ambassadors. from Japan.
Mr Biden agreed months ago on both nominees, people involved in the process said. But the official announcement was delayed in part because the United States needs host countries to sign such rosters before moving forward.
The nominations were announced Friday afternoon, hours after Mr. Biden made comments about the chaos in Afghanistan, the biggest foreign policy crisis of his presidency to date.
Mr Burns is about to fill a diplomatic vacuum as an increasingly ideological conflict between China and the United States has led to deteriorating relations. In March, an extremely tense meeting in Anchorage between top Chinese and American diplomats resulted in public resignations.
At about that time, Mr. Biden had decided between Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Burns to become his ambassador to China, one of the main embassy posts. He told people he was interested in choosing a “principal” who would deliver a different kind of message than a career diplomat, people involved in the process said.
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However, the diplomatic world insisted on Mr. Burns, a Foreign Service career official who has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, because of someone whose background was steeped in domestic politics.
“I welcome this opportunity to work on behalf of the President and the American people on the strategic competition between the US and the PRC, as well as other difficult and complex challenges we face at this critical juncture in our relationship,” said Mr. Burns . in a statement, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Mr. Emanuel, who developed a close relationship with Mr. Biden when he was vice president, was among those eligible for a cabinet position during the transition. But that speculation sparked the ire of progressives who were critical of his running for mayor, particularly his handling of the 2014 fatal shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a Chicago police officer. Mr. Emanuel was also a contender for the Japanese ambassadorship since the presidential transition.
If confirmed, Mr Emanuel would head to Tokyo at a time when US officials hope that stronger relations with Japan can counterbalance the deteriorating relationship with China.
“The United States-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific, and I would be proud to represent our nation with one of our most critical global allies in one of the most critical geopolitical regions, Mr Emanuel said in a statement.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who worked closely with Mr. Emanuel in the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, praised him as a leader of “immense experience and effectiveness.”
Biden has rolled out dozens of ambassadorial nominees this year, but so far only Ken Salazar, his ambassador to Mexico, has been confirmed by the Senate.
“We are frustrated at the slow pace of confirmations, especially for non-controversial nominees,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this month. “Several of these sitting and waiting nominees are highly qualified. Some of them have a lot of Republican support. So what’s the delay?”
On Friday, Biden also nominated Michael Battle, a foreign service official, as ambassador to Tanzania.