STATE DEPARTMENT – The new top U.S. diplomat, Antony Blinken, is pledging to work with core allies and partners to confront complex global challenges, while investing in a diverse and inclusive American Foreign Service.
Blinken was officially welcomed to the State Department on Wednesday as secretary of state by approximately 30 of the women and men representing a small cross-section of the larger workforce.
“America’s leadership is needed around the world,” said Blinken, adding he will “put a premium on diplomacy” with allies and partners to meet the great challenges, including “the pandemic, climate change, the economic crisis, threats to democracies, fights for racial justice, and the danger to our security and global stability” posed by U.S. adversaries.
The new top U.S. diplomat also encouraged non-partisanship and transparency.
“I will be forthright with you, because transparency makes us stronger. I will seek out dissenting views and listen to the experts, because that’s how the best decisions are made,” said Blinken at the State Department.
The U.S. Senate confirmed him on Tuesday with a 78-22 vote to serve as the country’s 71st secretary of state, filling the most senior Cabinet position and one that is fourth in the line of presidential succession.
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At a confirmation hearing last week, Blinken said he was ready to confront the challenges posed by China, Iran, Russia and North Korea.
He said China “poses the most significant challenge” to U.S. national interests, while noting there is room for cooperation.
“There are rising adversarial aspects of the relationship; certainly, competitive ones, and still some cooperative ones, when it is in our mutual interests,” he said.
Conservative lawmakers’ opposition to Blinken centered on concerns that he may help the new administration reenter the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and that he would halt former president Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Middle Eastern power.
“The policies that Mr. Blinken has committed to implementing as secretary of state, especially regarding Iran, will dangerously erode America’s national security and will put the Biden administration on a collision course with Congress, and I could not support his confirmation,” said Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
During his confirmation hearing, Blinken vowed to rebuild State Department morale and the diplomatic corps. He said he saw the U.S. standing abroad as leadership based on “humility and confidence.”
The “swift and bipartisan confirmation sends a powerful signal to our nation and the world that American diplomacy and development matter — both on the global stage and here at home,” said the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a broad-based network of 500 businesses and NGOs, in a statement.
The 58-year-old Blinken was deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration and has close ties with President Joe Biden. He was staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel, and later was then-Vice President Biden’s national security adviser.