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Trump’s Nominee for Ambassador to China to Press Beijing on North Korea

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to China, at Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017.

President Donald Trump's nominee to be the next American ambassador to China says he will continue to press Beijing for cooperation in helping to rein in North Korea's nuclear aggression.

"They recognize, as other nations in Asia recognize, that this nuclear obsession that the leadership of North Korea has with guided missiles and everything, is a very serious threat to humankind, and that we all need to look at ways that we can work together," Iowa Governor Terry Branstad told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

During his confirmation hearing, Branstad noted China is well aware of the threat Pyongyang poses and does not want thousands of North Koreans flooding into its territory in the event of war.

Several U.S. senators expressed concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in China, and Branstad sought to reassure lawmakers.

“If confirmed as ambassador, I will work every day to represent American values to the leadership of China and Chinese people at large," he said. "Values that include upholding human rights for all, and a free and open market, a rules-based order in the oceans surrounding China and the importance of free press."

Branstad said he would not only invite dissidents and other members of China’s civil society to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing but also travel to other parts of China to meet with them.

Warm reception

The Iowa governor received a warm, bipartisan reception from senators, as he also answered questions on trade and security.

One of the senators from his home state of Iowa, Joni Ernst, pointed out that Branstad is the longest-serving U.S. governor, and said he would make an excellent U.S. ambassador to China.

“Importantly, Governor Branstad also knows China and its leaders well. He first met President Xi Jinping while he was visiting Iowa on an agricultural research trip in 1985," Ernst noted.

Iowa has a crucial trade relationship with China, exporting pork and soybeans, among other products. The Chinese leader has visited Iowa several times, and Branstad has visited China and Taiwan as well.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker also highlighted Branstad’s ties with China's Xi.

“Beijing is not Des Moines — but I know your relationship with President Xi spans decades,” the Tennessee Republican said.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey asked Branstad whether he thought China was an adversary or an ally of the United States.

He said it was mixed, but he agreed with President Donald Trump that the U.S. and China need to find ways to work together.

Both Democratic and Republican members expressed their respect and admiration for Branstad, and he is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate.