New US envoy to Japan vows support amid regional tensions

Feb 1, 2022, 5:04 AM | Updated: 5:09 am

TOKYO (AP) — Washington is “fully committed” to working with Japan to confront growing regional tensions, the new U.S. ambassador to Tokyo, Rahm Emanuel, said Tuesday.

Emanuel was speaking at a meeting with Japanese Foreign Miniser Yoshimasa Hayashi, where the two discussed issues including North Korea’s missile advancement and China’s increasingly assertive actions in the Asia Pacific.

“The United States is fully committed to working with Japan as a full ally to counter the challenges and to really realizing our shared vision for a truly free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Emanuel.

The American envoy criticized China’s use of “coercion, intimidation and disinformation” as its influence rises in the region.

Emanuel arrived in Tokyo in late January, amid escalating North Korean missile tests.

“North Korea is testing missile capabilities, testing regional stability and testing the global community’s patience,” he said.

North Korea on Monday said it test-launched the day before an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam, the North’s most significant weapon launch in years, as Washington has vowed support for its Asian allies.

Emanuel also called Russia’s amassing of military force along the Ukraine border “a clear and consequential threat to peace, security and a rules-based system.”

Hayashi said he hoped to “develop a relationship in which we can have candid discussions so that we can further strengthen our alliance.”

Emanuel’s ambassadorship to Japan will become official after he presents his credentials to Emperor Naruhito in a palace ceremony. Afterwards he is expected to meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Japanese media reported.

Emanuel is a former three-term congressman who served as Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff and was a senior adviser in Bill Clinton’s administration.

Emanuel arrived in Japan to assume the post at a moment when President Joe Biden is trying to increase focus on the Indo-Pacific and strengthen the U.S.-Japan partnership.

The post of U.S. ambassador to Japan was vacant for more than two years after William Hagerty left in July 2019 to run for the Senate.

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New US envoy to Japan vows support amid regional tensions