WASHINGTON – Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will represent the United States at the enthronement ceremony of Emperor Naruhito later this month, the White House said Friday.
The U.S. government had initially made arrangements to send Vice President Mike Pence to the ceremony on Oct. 22, in which the new emperor proclaims his enthronement in front of representatives from Japan and nearly 200 foreign countries. But it apparently gave up the idea in consideration of other diplomatic schedules.
Chao, who was born in Taiwan, served as U.S. secretary of labor from 2001 to 2009 and is the first Asian-American woman to be appointed to a president’s Cabinet in the country’s history, according to the Department of Transportation.
President Donald Trump has already visited Japan twice this year and it had been seen as highly unlikely that he would make another visit in October. During his visit in May, Trump became the first foreign leader to meet with Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the throne the same month.
Former Emperor Akihito abdicated on April 30, the first Japanese monarch to stand down in about 200 years, after expressing concerns about his advanced age and weakening health.
In the enthronement ceremony for Emperor Akihito in 1990, the United States sent then Vice President Dan Quayle.