The White House announced on Friday that President Joe Biden will select Tom Udall, a former US senator from New Mexico, to be his ambassador to New Zealand.
The decision comes as Biden works to shore up alliances in the Asia-Pacific to present a united front on what he has described as Washington’s key foreign policy challenge: China.
Biden officials have had little high-level, face-to-face contact with Beijing since a first senior diplomatic meeting in March in Alaska, where the Chinese side expressed anger at US sanctions announced just ahead of the talks.
New Zealand has been a crucial ally in the area, hosting Biden, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and China’s Xi Jinping for a virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting on controlling the worldwide epidemic on Friday.
Biden intends to utilise the 21-member forum and other multilateral organisations to oppose what he regards as unfair trade practises by China, among other concerns.
The Biden administration slapped fresh penalties on Chinese officials on Friday for their crackdown on Hong Kong, one of numerous flashpoints between the two countries.
“This position – working with one of our closest partners and allies – is integral as we work closely with New Zealand to confront the challenges facing our nations – including Covid-19, climate, and China,” Udall said in a statement.
On Friday, the White House also said Biden would nominate career US foreign service members as ambassadors to Brunei, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Botswana. Brunei is also an APEC member. All of the positions require Senate confirmation.