Ambassador nominee Gary Locke: China must lean on N. Korea

May 26, 2011

Commerce Secretary – and former Washington governor - Gary Locke is a step closer to becoming the next U.S. ambassador to China. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee completed his confirmation hearing in just
an hour and a half this morning. 

Some of the toughest questioning came from Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. He asked Locke repeatedly if the United States would continue to sell weapons to Taiwan to defend its economic and political differences with China.

Locke said the administration is committed to supporting Taiwan while keeping the two sides unified as “one country.”

Locke:

“No decision has been made with respect to further sales of defensive items to Taiwan.  That is under review.   And that is being evaluated by both others within the defense department and state department."

Menendez:

"Well, I appreciate that formal answer, which I expected. Let me go further, though, because you’re going to be the United States ambassador in China.  And I understand the one country policy, but you can be devoured if you don’t have the ability to defend yourself.”

Lock told the committee today that China has realized it must step up to defuse the tensions between North and South Korea after recent provocations by the North. China is reclusive North Korea's only major ally

Senators also questioned Locke about combating counterfeit goods, and human rights issues.

Locke would replace Jon Huntsman, who resigned in April to explore a presidential bid. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry says Locke is a "good and wise" choice for the job. If confirmed, he would be the first Chinese American to serve as ambassador to China.  

The soonest senators are expected to vote on the confirmation is in mid-June.