New US secretary of state Blinken says committed to a free Indo-Pacific
Antony Blinken took office on Tuesday as the 71st secretary of state of the US with a clear and unequivocal commitment to revitalising American diplomacy, engaging with the world, and to a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
Secretary Blinken was confirmed by US Senate earlier in the day with a 78-22 vote and kicked off his term with calls to counterparts of allied and neighbouring nations, starting with Canada. By late evening, he had spoken to foreign ministers of Mexico, Japan and South Korea, according to his tweets and state department readouts.
In calls with Japan’s Toshimitsu Motegi and South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha, Blinken said US relations with their countries were the “cornerstone” and “linchpin” of “peace, security, and prosperity for a free and open Indo-Pacific region” and across the world, according to state department readouts.
Canada and Mexico were also first calls placed by President Joe Biden to his counterparts, reflecting a pattern.
But President Biden also called Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, and broached subjects his predecessor Donald Trump had refused to. Biden conveyed strong US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, raised recent hacking of US government computer networks (for which intelligence agencies suspected Russia), interference in the 2016 US elections, and reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan.
“President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” the White House said in a statement on their call.
Upon assuming office, Blinken tweeted, “American leadership matters, and we have a unique ability to bring other countries together to meet the challenges and opportunities of our time.”
He wrote in another post: “We will revitalise American diplomacy to advance our interests and values in the world as it is – not as it was.”