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Pompeo tweet says US ambassador to China is leaving



BEIJING (AP) The US ambassador to China will resign early next month, ending a three-year term marked by a trade war and increasingly bitter relations between the world’s two largest economies.

Terry Branstad, appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017, confirmed his decision in a phone call with Trump last week, the US Embassy said in a statement on Monday. He did not give a reason for his departure.

I am most proud of our work to secure the Phase 1 trade agreement and achieve tangible results for our communities at home, ”he said Monday at an Embassy staff meeting.

News of his departure leaked earlier today when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Branstad on Twitter for his service.

Ambassador Branstad has helped rebalance U.S.-China relations to be results-oriented, reciprocal and equitable, Pompeo wrote in a follow-up tweet.

China’s Foreign Ministry said before the embassy’s announcement that it was aware of Pompeo’s tweet, but had not received any notification of Branstad’s departure.

Branstad found himself embroiled in a recent controversy when the official Chinese newspaper Peoples Daily dismissed an opinion column he had written.

Pompeo tweeted last week that the ruling Communist Party in China refused to release Branstad’s editorial while the Chinese ambassador to the United States is free to publish in any American media.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded that Branstad’s article was flawed, seriously inconsistent with the facts, and attacked and denigrated China for no reason.

The U.S. Embassy had contacted People’s Daily on August 26 about the article, requesting that it be printed in full without any changes by September 4, People’s Daily said in a statement released in line.

Branstad, 73, is from Iowa and served as governor of the main agricultural state for 22 years in two spans, from 1983 to 1999 and from 2011 to 2017.

Early in his first term, he met Xi Jinping, now the head of China, when the then county-level Communist Party official visited Iowa on a business trip to 1985.

Trump appointed him ambassador after a months-long vacancy in which Embassy official David Rank resigned after criticizing the Trump administrations’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.

Shortly after arriving in Beijing in June 2017, Branstad welcomed American beef to the Chinese market after a 14-year ban, saying I know reducing the trade deficit is a key priority for the president, and that is one of the ways we can do this.

But trade relations deteriorated quickly, with the United States imposing tariffs on Chinese goods and China retaliating in kind. Other conflicts followed over technology, human rights, and the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Branstad joined U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in trade talks with their Chinese counterparts in Beijing in May 2019.

The phase one agreement reached the following January represented a truce but did not address the most fundamental complaints of the American side.

The U.S. Embassy statement also highlighted Branstad’s role in efforts to reduce the flow of fentanyl from China to the United States, including a 2018 pact in which China agreed to list the opioid as a controlled substance.

Branstad also made a rare visit to Tibet in May 2019, where he expressed concern over what the United States has called Chinese government interference in the freedom of Tibetan Buddhists to organize and practice their religion.

He encouraged the Chinese government to engage in a substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, to seek a settlement that resolves the differences, according to an embassy statement at the time.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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