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[Newsmaker] John Kerry tapped as America’s top diplomat

John Kerry
John Kerry
U.S. President Barack Obama tapped John Kerry, a Massachusetts senator and former presidential candidate, to be the new secretary of state on Friday.

For the entirety of his career on Capitol Hill since 1985, Kerry, 69, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and son of a foreign-service officer, has specialized in foreign affairs. Since 2009, he has chaired the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Serving as Obama’s unofficial envoy, he has played a central role in defusing diplomatic tension, particularly in cases concerning the Middle East.

In 2009, he flew to Kabul to persuade Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to agree to a run-off election amid allegations of electoral irregularities that threatened to derail the country’s reconstruction process. He also helped ease tension between Washington and Islamabad after America’s incursion into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

Given broad support from both Democrats and Republicans, Kerry could easily pass the Senate confirmation process to succeed Hillary Clinton as Obama’s second-term administration takes office on Jan. 21.

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., was seen as the most likely candidate for the top diplomatic post following Obama’s reelection last month.

But she stepped out of the running earlier this month amid Republicans’ denunciation over her handling of the Benghazi consulate attack. She said she may face “a lengthy, disruptive and costly” nomination battle, stressing that the post should never be politicized.

Announcing his nomination, Obama touted the five-term lawmaker’s foreign policy experience and skills.

“I think it’s fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers, or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry,” Obama said. “And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead.”

Under his leadership at Foggy Bottom, Washington’s foreign policy team faces a reshuffle. Michael Schiffer, senior advisor to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Daniel Russel, senior director for Asia at the National Security Council, are mentioned as the likely candidates for the post of Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, currently held by Kurt Campbell.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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