Second gentleman Doug Emhoff arrived in Tokyo on Monday to lead the U.S. delegation to the Paralympic Games as Vice President Kamala Harris kicked off her trip to Singapore and Vietnam.
The couple will meet up in Hawaii on Thursday as they both journey back to the United States.
Emhoff will led the small delegation to the games that, like the Olympics, were delayed a year because of the coronavirus. It’s the latest high profile assignment for Emhoff, who has been traveling across the U.S. to try and help raise the COVID vaccine rate amid rising cases of the disease due to the Delta variant.
He will attend the August 24 opening ceremony with Raymond Greene, who serves as the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, or interim head, of the U.S. Embassy in Japan. Greene leads the U.S. Embassy until President Joe Biden’s ambassadorial nominee – Rahm Emanuel – can be confirmed by the Senate.
Second gentleman Doug Emhoff arrived in Tokyo to lead the U.S. delegation to the Paralympic Games
Doug Emhoff tweeted a photo of himself headed to Tokyo: ‘And we’re off! I’m on my way to Tokyo to cheer on @TeamUSA at the #Paralympics. See you soon #Tokyo2020,’ he wrote
Team USA practices during a training session at Yoyogi National Stadium ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
Emhoff will also meet with U.S. Embassy staff and have a sit down with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. And he will host a virtual get-together with members of Team USA.
The Paralympics are the largest sporting event in the world for people with disabilities. The Winter and Summer Paralympics are held in the same city as the Olympics and use the same facilities. They began in Rome in 1960.
At this year’s games, about 4,400 athletes with physical disabilities from 160 countries will compete in more than 20 sporting events under strict public health measures.
More than 115 U.S. athletes are competing. Chuck Aoki, a wheelchair rugby player, and Melissa Stockwell, paratriathlete, will serve as flag bearers for the United States during the opening ceremony.
Meanwhile, COVID cases are surging in Japan at record levels as the country struggles to raise its vaccine rate, which sits around 40%.
On Sunday, Japan reported 22,302 cases. Four days ago the nation topped 25,000 cases per day for the first time, including a record 25,492 Saturday.
A total of 546 positive cases were linked to the Summer Olympics Games and there has already been one positive case in village housing athletes for the Paralympic Games.
While Emhoff is in Tokyo, Harris is on the same side of the world, visiting Singapore and Vietnam.
The vice president is there to emphasis U.S. ties to the region and its role as a global leader, but her trip has been dominated with questions about Afghanistan and the Taliban take over there.
At a press conference on Monday with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Harris repeatedly declined to answer questions on what the United States should have done differently in Afghanistan.
‘There’s no question there will be and should be a robust analysis of what has happened, but right now there´s no question that our focus has to be on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us and vulnerable Afghans, including women and children,’ she said.
The Taliban’s swift return to power, and desperate scenes of people trying to flee Kabul airport, have cast another shadow over the United States’ status as a superpower.
Vice President Kamala Harris is also in Asia on a trip to Singapore and Vietnam; above she visits the USS Tulsa
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to troops as she visits the USS Tulsa in Singapore – a trip that has been dominated by questions on U.S. action in Afghanistan
Harris on Monday also visited American sailors on the USS Tulsa at the Changi Naval Base. She thanked them for their service and then paid tribute to Americans serving in Afghanistan.
“I know too that like all of us you’re thinking right now, as we all have been every day, recently, in particular, about the men and women who have served in Afghanistan, including some who are here today,’ she said.
‘We are all grateful to those men and women in uniform, and the embassy staff on the ground for bringing safety to Americans and to the Afghans who work side by side with us, and to other Afghans at risk. And they’re doing this mission in an incredibly challenging and dangerous environment. And the president and I are thankful for their service. And as I know you all know, we send them our thoughts and our prayers and from afar, and close up, we thank you every day for the work that you do,’ she added.
Harris heads to Vietnam on Tuesday. She is facing criticism for being tone-deaf in going ahead with a visit to Vietnam as the U.S. forces struggle to evacuate tens of thousands of people from Kabul.
The crisis has prompted comparisons with the trauma of 1975 in Saigon, when American helicopters ferried final evacuees from the embassy roof, as Viet Cong troops advanced.
But administration officials insist the trip was planned long before the Afghan crisis and is focused on Washington’s broader strategic goals in Asia.
Harris and Emhoff will meet up in Hawaii on Thursday.
While in Hawaii, Emhoff will meet with representatives from a community organization that empowers people with disabilities through adaptive water sports and outdoor activities. He’ll also visit a COVID vaccination site.
He will join Harris at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham. It’s unclear if Emhoff will join the vice president when she stops in California on Friday to campaign for Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election.