A panel of China experts and former ambassadors speak in Shambaugh Auditorium on Wednesday, May 3. The group talked about Gov. Terry Branstad's future role in the Trump Administration as Ambassador to China. (The Daily Iowan/Ben Smith)
A panel of China experts and former ambassadors speak in Shambaugh Auditorium on Wednesday, May 3. The group talked about Gov. Terry Branstad's future role in the Trump Administration as Ambassador to China. (The Daily Iowan/Ben Smith)

Panel points to N. Korea problem

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By Anna Kayser | anna-kayser@uiowa.edu

Former ambassadors and China experts iterated a major concern voiced at Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations hearing to consider Gov. Terry Branstad’s ambassadorship to China: North Korea’s growing nuclear power.

“I see this as probably the biggest challenge that I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Branstad said during his nomination hearing. “And I want to do anything and everything I can to find an acceptable solution for the benefit of the entire human race.”

Wenfang Tang, UI Stanley Hua Hsia Professor of political science and international studies whose current research focuses on public opinion and political change in contemporary China, said North Korea will trump all other issues.

“All of the hot-button issues are going to be back burner issues until we see if he can deliver North Korea,” said Ronald McMullen, former career diplomat and U.S. ambassador to Eritrea from 2007 to 2010 and current Ambassador in Residence in the UI Department of Political Science.

President Trump and his administration are counting on Branstad to deliver on North Korea, McMullen said.

But ,Tang said, this might be difficult. The United States thinks that China can solve the problem of North Korea’s growing arsenal, but China says it’s a U.S. problem.

“I want to do everything I can to be a go-between between our two countries to help convince the leadership in China that it’s in their interest to work together to stop this dangerous direction that is coming out of North Korea,” Branstad said during the hearing.

Branstad told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that sanctions on Chinese companies doing business with North Korea may be in order, and he is prepared to challenge Chinese President Xi Jinping for the good of the United States.

“There are other things they can do diplomatically and economically to send a clear signal that they, as well as the United States and other countries in the world, do not tolerate this expansion of nuclear technology and missiles,” Branstad said his hearing, but was not specific on what things China could or should do.

McMullen said that there are five things that Branstad has to be in acting as ambassador: a manager, a persuader, an adviser, a host, and a hard target.

“Gov. Branstad, as ambassador will need to persuade the government of China, the people of China, and also third parties to find common interests in American interests and American values that are his job to promote — in China — to both the government and the people of China,” McMullen said.