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WASHINGTON, Jan 20 ― President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said yesterday that he will work to revitalise damaged American diplomacy and build a united front to counter the challenges posed by Russia, China and Iran.
At his confirmation hearing a day before Democrat Biden takes over from Republican Donald Trump, whose tenure was marked by unilateral action that often upset traditional US friends, Blinken said he would work with allies and with humility.
“We do have a big task ahead of us in restoring, revitalising those relationships. I do think it starts ... with showing up again,” said Blinken. “Some of our allies and partners question the sustainability of our commitments based on the past few years and that's going to be a hard hill to climb.”
Blinken, 58, a veteran foreign policy hand and close confidant of Biden, also explained why US leadership is vital for the world, while promising a foreign policy that will deliver for Americans.
“If we want to have their support for American leadership, American engagement in the world, we have to demonstrate that it is actually making an improvement in their lives or preventing something,” he said.
There has been no indication that Blinken would face difficulty being confirmed by the Senate and throughout the hearing, he received bipartisan praise from the senators.
Blinken testified at the Congress two weeks after the building representing American democracy was stormed by thousands of members of a pro-Trump mob seeking to overturn Biden's victory. The unprecedented attack on the US Capitol stunned the world, further bruised America's standing and gave ammunition to US adversaries.
Aware of the damage, Blinken emphasised humility and said there was a need to reinforce US democracy at home. “Humility because we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad,” he said.
That emphasis was in a stark contrast to the outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's campaign to get back “the swagger” of the State Department.
Biden will be taking on a much different world from the one he left four years ago as President Barack Obama's vice president. China has assumed a larger global role, ranging from multilateral institutions to assisting development in Africa and Latin America. Ties between Washington and Beijing have sunk to their worst in decades, prompting Cold War comparisons.
Blinken said there was “no doubt” China posed the most significant challenge to the United States of any nation.
He said he believed Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China ― even if he did not agree with all his methods ― and endorsed the Trump's administration's assessment yesterday that the Chinese Communist Party was committing genocide against Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
The challenge to the United States posed by Russia, which has been accused of interference in 2016 US elections and a broad cyberattack on the US government last year, was very high on the Biden administration's agenda, Blinken said.
He said that a Biden administration intends to review the US approach and policy toward North Korea and consult closely with allies on how to get Pyongyang back to negotiations aimed at convincing the isolated Asian state to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
On Iran, Blinken said the United States was “a long way” from rejoining a 2015 nuclear pact with Tehran and other world powers, under which under which Iran restrained its nuclear programme in return for relief from sanctions. Trump quit the deal in 2018 saying it did not go far enough. ― Reuters
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