U.S. Confirms Ambassador to Moscow at Critical Time
The U.S. Senate has confirmed Jon Huntsman as the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, filling a void at a critical time in U.S.-Russian relations.
Huntsman is a former governor of the U.S. state of Utah who previously has served as ambassador to Singapore and China.
The confirmation was unanimous and swift and with Democrats and Republicans joining in a rare consensus to support President Trump’s choice for the top U.S. diplomat in Moscow. The Washington Post quoted Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin as saying Trump could not have made a better choice than Huntsman.
The new U.S. ambassador will arrive in Moscow as tensions remain high between the U.S. and Russia on issues that include allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections and interference in eastern Ukraine.
President Trump has rejected allegations by political opponents that his campaign colluded with the Russians.
Huntsman testified this month before the Senate Foreign Relations committee and said there is, in his words, “no question” that Moscow interfered in last year’s presidential election.
Tillerson Heads to China Amid North Korea Nuclear Escalation
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson embarks Thursday on his second trip to China, seeking Beijing’s cooperation on a “maximum pressure” campaign against North Korea’s nuclear aggression, amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
In a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong on Thursday, the top U.S. diplomat is seeking China’s cooperation to curb North Korea’s nuclear provocations, and paving the way for President Donald Trump’s first visit to China in November.
“We’ll continue our discussions on a number of other issues that are important, and certainly North Korea will be on the table for discussion,” said Tillerson prior to the first round of U.S.-China Social and Cultural Dialogue that’s aimed at promoting people-to-people ties.
The U.S. is conferring closely with Chinese officials on Beijing’s commitment to curbing imports of North Korean coal, iron, iron ore, lead and lead ore, and seafood.
If fully implemented, the ban on those items could substantially reduce North Korea’s revenues this year. North Korea had earned $1.5 billion from the export of these items to China in 2016, according to the State Department.
China is North Korea’s number one trade partner. Washington says bringing China on board is key to cutting off Pyongyang’s ability to earn hard currency.
Trade and investment also are high on the agenda in Tillerson’s visit to Beijing.
“We're working with China to rebalance our trade and our lopsided relationship in that realm, and ensure that China provides fair treatment to U.S. companies in ways that create U.S. jobs,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Thursday.