Trump Bombs Syria While Hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russia Demands UNSC Meeting

Posted: 4:23 am ET
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Meanwhile in Mar-a-Lago, where President Trump is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping:

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Trump to Nominate Iowa Gov Terry Branstad as U.S. Ambassador to China

Posted: 2:19 am ET
Updated: Dec 8, 3:37 pm PT
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President-elect Trump has yet to make a decision on who will be his secretary of state. That search has expanded and the news media reports that this is now a 10-man race for the 69th Secretary of State. While the search is ongoing, Mr. Trump has apparently already offered the ambassadorship to China to Terry Branstad, and the Iowa governor has accepted.

On December 7, Governor Branstad released a statement saying, “I am honored and humbled to be nominated to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China.”  His statement also said: “The United States – Chinese bilateral relationship is at a critical point.  Ensuring the countries with the two largest economies and two largest militaries in the world maintain a collaborative and cooperative relationship is needed more now than ever. The President-elect understands my unique relationship to China and has asked me to serve in a way I had not previously considered.”

Governor Branstad has served as Iowa Governor from 1983-1999 and 2011 to the present.  His relationship with China goes back to 1983 when he signed a formal agreement establishing the sister-state relationship between Hebei province and Iowa. In 1985, Xi Jinping, then a county-level party leader from Hebei, visited Iowa for the very first time and met with Governor Branstad at the state capitol. In 2012, when Vice President Xi visited Des Moines and Muscatine, Governor Branstad sent a personal thank-you to Xi and invited him to an “old friends” reunion dinner. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman also called Governor Branstad an “old friend of the Chinese people.” Senator Chuck Grassley tweeted that “Gov Branstad has longstanding relationship w Pres of China so his nomination is good 4 our national interest.”

If confirmed by the Senate after January 20, Governor Branstad will be President Trump’s personal representative to the People’s Republic of China. He will not actually report to the White House but to the still unnamed secretary of state at the State Department, through the East Asia Pacific Bureau.

Some of Governor Branstad’s predecessors at the US Embassy in Beijing include Senator Max Sieben Baucus (1941–) who was appointed by President Obama on March 20, 2014; former WA Governor Gary Locke (1950–) who served from 2011–2014; former Bush ambassador to Singapore Jon M. Huntsman Jr. (1960–) who President Obama appointed to Beijing from 2009–2011; and former President George Herbert Walker Bush (1924–) who served as Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in Peking (Beijing) from 1974 to 1975.

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Dear Congress: You Are Not Allowed to Make Fun of Secretary Kerry’s Asia Pivot Shirts

— By Domani Spero

The cancellation of President Obama’s trip to Asia lent to hyperventilating descriptions about the president’s “Asia Pivot” — “falters,” “in shambles,” “goes pffft,” “in jeopardy” and such.

Well, frankly, not sure where that is going. But we could certainly imagine the political hay that would have been expended over POTUS trip to Asia during a government shutdown.

In any case, Secretary Kerry took the trip instead.

Dear Congress, this is what happened to America in Bali, Indonesia.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for a photo before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Official Dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on October 7, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for a photo before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Official Dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on October 7, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

So you’re not allowed to make fun of that shirt or any other shirts, kapish?

We actually think that purple batik suits him well.  Had they asked him to put on a gray one, he would have worn it too, even if he would have looked wash out in it.  Because he’s our top diplomat. Yes, diplomats are known to wear (and eat) things that their compatriots often find strange or weird. (See Round-Up: Headgears in the Foreign Service).

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dressed in a traditional batik shirt, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the two join other heads of delegation for a family photo before the APEC Leaders Dinner on October 7, 2013. in Bali, Indonesia. [State Department photo / Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dressed in a traditional batik shirt, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the two join other heads of delegation for a family photo before the APEC Leaders Dinner on October 7, 2013. in Bali, Indonesia. [State Department photo / Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow foreign ministers, all clad in batik shirts favored in Brunei, enter a gala dinner at the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow foreign ministers, all clad in batik shirts favored in Brunei, enter a gala dinner at the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with other regional heads of state and leaders of delegation before the start of a dinner and cultural program at the ASEAN Summit meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on October 9, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with other regional heads of state and leaders of delegation before the start of a dinner and cultural program at the ASEAN Summit meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on October 9, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

These are way tamer in comparison to what President Bush had to wear during his tenure.

Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Nari caused the cancellation of Secretary Kerry’s trip to the Philippines, so we are missing Secretary Kerry wearing the country’s famous Barong Tagalog.

Anyhow, we understand that Australia continues to host annual six-month training deployments of US Marines to its base in the Northern Territory. Australia’s Courier News reports today that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised the necessary infrastructure will be put in place to accommodate the expected presence of a 1000 U.S. Marines set to train there next year. The government is preparing to construct additional accommodations at two bases in Darwin.

So there’s that.

Then we heard that we are helping the Philippines develop Oyster Bay, a postcard-perfect cove on Palawan Island into a port for naval frigates and eventually for American warships?  All, of course, overlooking the disputed South China Sea.  But given all that’s happening in Washington, D.C….

No wonder Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the later’s 61st birthday “quaffing vodka and wolfing down cake”:

“It was 11:00 pm. I offered our Chinese friends to raise a shot of vodka,” Mr Putin said, according to Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS.

“They did not refuse, so we did just that.” As for the cake: “We wolfed it down successfully”. Needless to say, Mr Putin described his meeting with Mr Xi as “very warm” and “friendly”.

We can’t say if Secretary Kerry was in attendance for that “quaffing” and “wolfing” event.

Meanwhile, back in Foggy Bottom:  The East Asia Pacific bureau has six deputy assistant secretaries, twice as many as in 2004, and a deputy assistant secretary-level U.S. senior official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. State/OIG reports that “the bureau needs to streamline front office staffing” — top heavy structure for the second smallest regional bureau in the house needs fixing.  Why? Because as in other bureaus, “the proliferation of DASes has diminished the role of office directors and reduced responsibility at every level.” Also this:

The administration’s rebalance toward Asia has not been matched by additional financial or human resources. A Congressional Research Service memorandum notes that “[new] initiatives have not, however, been accompanied by a significant increase in the State Department or USAID’s programmatic resources devoted to East Asia.” Foreign assistance to the region in FY 2013 is 19 percent below the FY 2010 peak. U.S. military resources for the region have increased, but sequestration may impact future plans.

Folks, somewhere, some heads of state are laughing their heads off.

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