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Rahm Emanuel among Biden's picks for U.S. ambassadorships

By Jake Thomas
Rahm Emanuel among Biden's picks for U.S. ambassadorships
Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to members of the media in 2016. Emanuel next job could be U.S. ambassador to Japan.  File photo by John Taggart/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Rahm Emanuel, a former Chicago mayor and White House chief of staff, has been selected by President Joe Biden to serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan.

The White House announced on Friday that Biden would nominate Emanuel as well as two other picks for top diplomatic posts: R. Nicholas Burns, retired member of the Foreign Service as U.S. ambassador to China, and Michael Battle, a former diplomat and chaplain, as U.S. ambassador to Tanzania.

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​​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.

NPR reported earlier this month that Biden, who has stressed U.S. diplomatic engagement, has been slow to fill ambassadorships compared to previous administrations. The White House has blamed the slow pace of appointments on obstruction by Republican senators.

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Previously, Biden nominated former Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., as ambassador to Turkey. He also nominated Cindy McCain, the wife of late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as U.S. representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.

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Biden has expressed a desire to put U.S. diplomacy in the "hands of genuine professionals."

Burns has a long State Department career that included stints as undersecretary of state for political affairs and ambassadorships to NATO and Greece. Battle has also had a diplomatic career serving as U.S. representative to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the U.S. ambassador to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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But the news of Biden's nomination of Emanuel, a three-term congressman known for his brash style, drew criticism from Brett Bruen, former White House global engagement director and diplomat.

"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.

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