YUKIHIRO SAKAGUCHI, Nikkei staff writer
WASHINGTON — Rahm Emanuel, President Joe Biden’s pick as the next American ambassador to Japan, said at his confirmation hearing here Wednesday that the next three years of work with Tokyo will have consequences for the American military presence in the Indo-Pacific for decades to come.
“What we build in partnership with Japan over the next three years will determine America’s posture for the next 30,” he said. “The challenges and opportunities we face underscore the imperative of strengthening our bonds with our closest ally, Japan.”
The Biden administration is preparing a global posture review that will realign American forces to fit the new emerging challenges in the Indo-Pacific, namely China. Emanuel told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Japan would be an essential part of this.
“For more than 60 years, the partnership between the United States and Japan has been the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said. “Our alliance advances our shared interests and shared values.”
Close cooperation between Japan and the U.S. is critical to dealing with China, which the Biden administration considers Washington’s only serious competitor. The ambassador post has been vacant since previous Ambassador Bill Hagerty stepped down in July 2019.
“China aims to conquer through division,” Emanuel said. “America’s strategy is security through unity. That regional unity is built on the shoulders of the U.S.-Japan alliance.”
“We are at a critical juncture in our foreign policy, in American foreign policy, in this region,” he said. “
The global posture review currently underway will examine the U.S. military’s footprint, resources and strategies around the world. Some of the overseas bases have been occupied since World War II but have lost significance as threats have shifted.
The White House announced Emanuel’s nomination in August. He must be confirmed by the Senate before assuming the post.
“The president nominated Rahm Emanuel to serve as ambassador to Japan because he’s somebody who has a record of public service, both in Congress, serving as a public official in the White House, and certainly also as the mayor of Chicago,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
Emanuel was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and served three terms in the House of Representatives after that. He became chief of staff to President Barack Obama in 2009, while Biden was vice president, before stepping down in 2010 to run for mayor of Chicago, spending two terms in that role until 2019.
Emanuel has built close relationships over the years with key officials in Democratic administrations, including Biden’s — connections that Japan hopes to leverage.
Some liberal Democrats have urged the Senate to reject Emanuel over his handling of the 2014 killing of Black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white Chicago police officer. The Senate is in effect evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaking vote.
“Republican support for Emanuel might ultimately clinch his confirmation,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
One of these Republican senators — Hagerty, the former ambassador — raised Japan’s handling of the case of former Nissan Motor executive Greg Kelly as “a real impediment” to the bilateral relationship. Japanese prosecutors seek a two-year prison sentence for Kelly, who is accused of helping former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn hide compensation.
“This is not just another piece of business to be checked off,” Emanuel said. “I’m going to be approaching this subject as a former U.S. congressman who knows what it means when you have a constituent at heart.”