Senate committee approves Governor Terry Branstad for US envoy to China

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel has approved Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as U.S. ambassador to China.

Tuesday’s decision all but assures full Senate confirmation of President Donald Trump’s pick for the key diplomatic post.

Members of the Foreign Relations Committee approved Branstad’s nomination by voice vote. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, says Branstad is “fully qualified” for the job at a time when the Trump administration is pushing the Chinese to act more aggressively to defuse North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Branstad has pledged to confront Beijing on a range of thorny subjects, including human rights and trade.

The 70-year-old Branstad has headed Iowa government for more than 22 years and is the country’s longest serving governor.