Report: Iowa governor accepts position as China ambassador

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(CNN) -- Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has been offered the post of US ambassador to China by President-elected Donald Trump, according to a source familiar with the decision.

According to a report by Bloomberg, three people said that Branstad had accepted the offer.

An announcement could come later Wednesday or on Thursday, when Trump will travel to Iowa as part of his "thank you" tour of rallies in swing states.

Branstad is uniquely well-suited to the job, having a close, decades-long relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two have known each other since 1985, when Xi visited Iowa as a provincial official on a state exchange program during Branstad's first term as governor, and have maintained a friendship of sorts -- Xi met with Branstad during a visit to the US in 2012 as a vice-president on the verge of taking power in China.

According to Reuters, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang referred to the Iowa governor as an "old friend" of China when asked about rumors of Branstad's possible appointment to the post. "We welcome him to play a greater role in advancing the development of China-U.S. relations," Kang said in a daily press briefing.

But their warm personal relationship may be soon put to the test.

The next ambassador to China will confront a number of high-stakes diplomatic challenges in the U.S.-China relationship, including growing tensions over the disputed South China Sea, the implementation of the Paris climate change agreement, and the two countries' economic and trade relationship.

Related: Local Republicans endorse Branstad for ambassadorship job in China

Trump has already signaled an aggressive posture toward China, bucking decades of US foreign policy by taking a congratulatory call from the president of Taiwan, and sending a series of bellicose tweets about currency devaluation and tariffs.

"Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so!" Trump wrote in a series of tweets on Sunday after China expressed umbrage at his call with the president of Taiwan.

Branstad's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump and Branstad met on Tuesday, December 6, 2016 in New York.  

Branstad said in a press release after the meeting that the pair discussed Iowa's role in the presidential election and the transition into Trump's new administration, the Associated Press reported. The governor added that he had no announcement to make at that time regarding a possible appointment.

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds photo from ltgovernor.iowa.gov

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds photo from ltgovernor.iowa.gov

In Bloomberg's report, it was noted that if Branstad moves on to this new position, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would step into Branstad's role, making her Iowa's first woman governor.