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New US ambassador to China says North Korea a top priority

Terry Branstad meets Xi Jinping in Beijing on April 15, 2013. Photo: Getty Images

The new US ambassador to China said that stopping the threat posed by North Korea will be a top priority, along with resolving the US-China trade imbalance, according to a video message to the Chinese people released on Monday.

Terry Branstad, a former Iowa governor, has been described by Beijing as an "old friend" of China. Branstad was confirmed on May 22 as President Donald Trump's new ambassador to China.

"Resolving the bilateral trade imbalance, stopping the North Korea threat, and expanding people-to-people ties will be my top priorities," Branstad said in the video message, which was released on a popular Chinese video-streaming platform.

Trump has placed high hopes on China and its president Xi Jinping exerting greater influence on North Korea, although he said that last week Chinese efforts to rein in the reclusive North's nuclear and missile programs had failed.

China's foreign ministry regularly says that Beijing is doing all that it can with regard to North Korea by implementing United Nations Security Council sanctions, while also pushing for greater dialogue to reduce tensions.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that he had pressed China to ramp up economic and political pressure on North Korea during his meeting with top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Washington last week.

"We face many of the same challenges. A strong US-China relationship can contribute to solutions," Branstad said in the video, without giving details about how he hoped to work with China.

Friendship with China

Branstad said that he first traveled to China in 1984, shortly after becoming governor of Iowa.

The following year, he hosted President Xi, then a county leader, during Xi's first trip to the US. Their friendship has since grown, and Branstad has visited China multiple times.

"More than three decades and five more visits to China later, I now look forward to working with you, the people of China, to build the future of US-China ties," the ambassador said.

The ambassador is bringing his family. "My wife, daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters will join me in Beijing, and I look forward to introducing them to the warmth and extraordinary culture of the Chinese people," he said.

Branstad said that he will also travel across China to visit old friends and make new ones.

Dong Manyuan, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, said that Branstad's arrival in China is coming at a good time.

"The presidents of the two countries have reached consensus on guidelines for improving bilateral relations, and their personal exchanges have gone smoothly," he said.

"That has laid a good foundation for the work of the ambassador, who is a friend of both presidents."

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