Thomas-Greenfield is a well-regarded diplomat who was forced out of her senior State Department position when Trump arrived at the White House. She seemed destined for easy confirmation, despite some Republican questioning over a 2019 speech that some suggested was favourable to Beijing.
“China is a strategic adversary,” Thomas-Greenfield replied to a question that suggested the Biden administration might embrace the Chinese Communist Party, “and their actions threaten our security, they threaten our values and they threaten our way of life, and they are a threat to their neighbours and they are a threat across the globe.”
She pledged to work “aggressively against Chinese malign efforts” at the UN and elsewhere.
In its first week, the Biden administration has already reversed several of Trump’s most controversial moves. The administration returned the United States to the landmark Paris climate accord – Trump had made the US the only country in the world to withdraw – and on Tuesday announced restoration of diplomatic ties and financial aid to Palestinians.
Other plans, such as salvaging the international nuclear agreement with Iran, will take longer, and still others – including confronting China – may not be significantly changed at all.
Speaking later to a dozen reporters in his first news briefing at the State Department, Blinken said a raft of Trump measures – many taken in the final months of his term in office – were under review but that he was giving priority to the designation of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen as a terrorist group.
Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo made the call, under pressure from Saudi Arabia, in one of his final acts. It has been widely condemned by members of Congress and international aid groups because the designation makes it even more difficult to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid.
By most estimates, the Houthis control territory where roughly 80 per cent of the Yemeni population resides. Blinken acknowledged the Houthis had committed abuses but said the Saudis, who back the Yemeni government, had exacerbated the humanitarian crisis there. Saudi airstrikes have killed legions of Yemeni civilians.
Blinken recounted Biden’s telephone call from the previous day with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In sharp contrast to his predecessor, Biden complained to Putin about Russian interference in US elections, possibly placing bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan and the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who survived but was jailed upon his return to Moscow.
“It remains striking to me how concerned – maybe scared – the Russian government seems of one man,” Blinken said of Navalny.
Blinken’s first briefing with reporters was a 20-minute globe-spinning feast of questions.
Asked how he expected to restore the world’s trust in US foreign policy, Blinken said he had spent the previous 24 hours on the phone with an estimated dozen allies from the Americas, Asia and Europe.
“One thing I picked up from those conversations, already, was a very, very strong desire for the United States to be back in the room, back at the table, working with them,” Blinken said. “It was almost palpable.”
Los Angeles Times
US power and politics
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