During a hearing that lasted more than four hours on Tuesday (19) in the US Senate, Joe Biden’s candidate for the post of new secretary of state kept rivalries with China on the agenda.
“We have to face China from a position of strength and not of weakness,” said Antony Blinken, who answered questions from members of Congress in the first session who could approve his name for the Democratic term he will take office. Wednesday (20). .
According to him, the relationship with Beijing is “the most important challenge in the United States”.
Former Assistant Secretary of State under the Barack Obama administration, Blinken, 58, began his career in the State Department under the Bill Clinton administration. If approved, he will occupy one of the most important positions in government, at the head of American diplomacy.
His numerous references should reassure both American diplomats and world leaders, after four years of abrasive strategies and nationalist stance by the Trump administration.
Biden’s candidate, however, did not rule out the possibility of working with mutual interests between Washington and Beijing.
It is necessary, according to him, “not to denigrate the allies” and not to deviate from international policies and institutions, “to sow the ground for China to write the rules and the standards” – referring to the movement of Donald Trump to move away the country of global agreements such as the break with the WHO (World Health Organization) and the end of the Paris Agreement.
Without seeking clashes with Republican senators, Biden’s candidate softened his tone to speak about the incumbent president and praised aspects of the current government’s foreign policy. He said he thought the Republican was right to take a stricter approach to China, simply disagreeing with the way it was being conducted. “The basic principle was right.”
On Tuesday, the Trump administration said China was committing “genocide and crimes against humanity” by suppressing Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in the Xinjiang region – the ruling imposes no automatic sanctions on China , but pressured countries and companies to do business in the region.
“I believe that this genocide is underway and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt of the Chinese state to destroy the Uyghurs,” said current foreign minister Mike Pompeo.
Commenting on the matter, Blinken said the United States must stand up for its democratic values ”when human rights are violated in Xinjiang” or “when democracy is trampled in Hong Kong.”
The relationship between Iran and the United States, which is also experiencing moments of tension with the United States government, was the first topic discussed at the meeting – in January the country announced the resumption of enrichment of its uranium, violating the 2015 nuclear agreement signed under Obama.
Blinken confirmed positions already held by Biden and said he advocated a return to the deal, on condition that Tehran also meets the conditions, whose uranium enrichment limits were exceeded after Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the pact in 2018.
This return could still be an opportunity to “seek a longer and stronger agreement”, with the support of American allies in the region, such as Israel and the Gulf countries, he said. “But we are still far from it. We should see what measures Iran will take [a partir do início do novo governo] then we evaluate.
Blinken also said he had no plans to negotiate with Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and that he would maintain the US embassy in Jerusalem – where Trump transferred it in 2018.
Despite being an advocate of global alliances, the new secretary has his fingerprints made during disastrous wars under the Obama administration, such as when he defended military intervention in Libya in 2011 and was in favor of military action American direct in Syria.
When asked if he had any doubts about what happened in Libya, Blinken explained the thinking that led him to defend the intervention. “We had Muammar Kadhafi who said he would kill anyone who opposed him like mice. It looked like we were about to see massive atrocities, ”he said.
Yet he admitted his mistakes. “Here’s what I misjudged: We don’t realize that one of the things Gaddafi has done over the years was to make sure there was no possible rival against his power. When Gaddafi left, there was unfortunately more room for extremist groups to fill some of the void left by him. “
Earlier Thursday, intelligence director candidate Avil Haines was also screened and said she planned to take a no-politics approach in her department. Although she did not mention the name of the current director of national intelligence in the Trump administration, John Ratcliffe, she made it clear that she would choose a different direction.
Democrats have accused Ratcliffe of putting a political bias on the information he presents to the White House and of acting more as a party adviser than a non-partisan officer in helping Trump.
“One of the first things I would like to do is send a clear message to the intelligence community that we need to produce non-political and raw intelligence for the president-elect, for his advisers,” he said.
Before all those chosen for the post of president-elect begin to work, their appointments must be confirmed by the Senate – between 1,200 and 1,400 government positions must be confirmed. After a hearing, the senators vote and the candidate is confirmed by a simple majority.
Democrats were hoping for confirmation from Haines last week, but Republicans have delayed their hearing. Blinken will also not get a quick vote, in part because of disagreements over the agenda between Republicans and Democrats on the Foreign Affairs Committee.