White House declines to confirm new China ambassador

Updated: 2013-12-20 10:44


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WASHINGTON -- The White House on Thursday refused to confirm media reports that veteran Democratic Senator Max Baucus has been chosen by President Barack Obama as new ambassador to China.

"I have no personnel announcements to make. I've certainly seen reports. So, I would just urge you to wait until we have a personnel announcement to make," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a press briefing.

He was answering a media query about the reports that Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, had been picked to replace Gary Locke, who decided to step down early next year as ambassador to China.

However, the spokesman rejected the notion that unlike Locke, a Chinese-American and former Secretary of Commerce, Baucus did not have strong ties to China.

"I would generally say that Senator Baucus has been directly engaged for more than two decades in work to deepen the relationship between the United States and China," Carney said. "That includes efforts to level the playing field in our trade relationships, as well as efforts to open markets and increase trade, and to bring China into the World Trade Organization and to establish permanent, normal trade relations with China."

He also declined to comment on the media speculation that Obama's nomination of Baucus, who would not seek reelection at end of his sixth term in Senate next year, was aimed at keeping the Senate seat of the Montana state in the Democratic hands.

According to the law, a replacement will be named by the governor to succeed Baucus if he is nominated as the new ambassador to China. Montana's Lieutenant Governor John Walsh is expected to fill Baucus' seat in that case.