President-elect Joe Biden’s cabinet candidates on Tuesday pledged the United States would stand firm on China but vowed a new era of international cooperation following Donald Trump’s divisive “America First” approach.
A day before Biden becomes the 46th president, Antony Blinken, his election as foreign minister, said the new government would revive the agreements with Iran and Russia, but cited both countries as threats.
“None of the great challenges we face can be met by one country alone – even one as powerful as the US,” Blinken, a docile longtime advisor to Biden, told his Senate confirmation hearing.
“We can revitalize our core alliances – force multipliers of our influence around the world. Together we are far better positioned to counter the threats from Russia, Iran and North Korea and to stand up for democracy and human rights.”
Blinken distanced itself from the outgoing president’s needling of allies and denunciation of multilateralism, but said Trump was “right to take a tougher stance on China”.
“I disagree very much with his approach in a number of areas, but the rationale was the right one.”
Blinken supported outgoing Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo’s determination on Tuesday for China to commit genocide against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim people.
He promised to continue looking for ways to block imports of Chinese forced labor products and prevent the export of technology that “might promote their suppression.”
Retired General Lloyd Austin, who was appointed Secretary of Defense, told his hearing that the emerging Asian power “poses a significant and long-term security threat to the United States and to our allies and partners.”
“I believe China is a top priority given its rise and the scale and extent of its military modernization,” he said.
Blinken previously talked about finding limited areas to work with China, such as climate change.
The tough talk came when the Trump administration welcomed its campaign against China as a signature performance.
In a farewell speech, Trump said that he “brought the nations of the world together to hold their own against China like never before.”
– return to diplomacy –
The stepson of a Holocaust survivor who found refuge in the USA, Blinken, 58, is known for his even temperament and his passion for humanitarian causes.
He’s even been questioned kindly by most Republicans, suggesting he is likely to gain quick approval in the Senate where his Democratic Party will take control on Wednesday.
As Deputy Secretary of State in Barack Obama’s presidency, Blinken promised to return to diplomacy, including with regard to Iran, where Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal and punished sanctions.
Biden “believes that we would also do it if Iran complied with the regulations again,” said Blinken.
“But we would use that as a platform for our allies and partners who would be back on the same side with us to come to a longer and stronger agreement,” he said.
The European powers remain committed to the 2015 agreement, according to which Iran drastically reduced its nuclear work – steps it reversed in protest at Trump’s sanctions.
An expanded deal could deal with Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in the region as well as its missiles, Blinken said.
“Still, I think we’re far from it,” said Blinken.
Blinken said Biden will also act quickly to renew the new START nuclear weapons reduction treaty, the last remaining arms pact with Russia, which expires on February 5.
The Trump administration had tried unsuccessfully to extend New START to China, which has a rapidly growing military that is still significantly smaller than that of Russia and the United States.
Blinken didn’t say how long Biden would aim for an extension. Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed a one-year period, but negotiations collapsed when the Trump team insisted Moscow not develop weapons in the meantime.
– Shift to Yemen –
On another shift, Blinken said he would immediately check Pompeo’s expulsion of the Yemeni Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization.
“At least on its surface, nothing particularly practical seems to be being achieved to fuel efforts against the Houthis and bring them back to the negotiating table, while providing humanitarian aid to those in dire need of them is even more difficult than it is already the case is.” “Blinking said.
Pompeo released the designation, which went into effect Tuesday, despite extensive warnings from aid groups that they must deal with the Iranian-leaning rebels who effectively control much of Yemen.
Blinken said Saudi Arabia, a close ally of Trump, bears much of the responsibility for what the United Nations is calling the world‘s worst humanitarian crisis.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)