New US ambassador Max Baucus pledges to build trust with China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 February, 2014, 5:42am

Incoming US ambassador Max Baucus has pledged to build trust with China as fellow senators confirmed him to the post at a time of high tensions in East Asia.

The Senate approved Baucus in a rare unanimous show of support for one of President Barack Obama's high-profile nominees, although four senators including Baucus did not vote.

"The United States-China relationship, I believe, is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. It will shape global affairs for generations - we must get it right," Baucus, a member of Obama's Democratic Party who has represented the US state of Montana since 1978, said on the Senate floor after the vote.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China welcomed the appointment.

"We hope and believe that Mr Baucus will work hard on improving mutual understanding between China and the US, strengthening co-operation and exchanges, and pushing for the construction of a new type of major power relations between China and the US," he said.

On a lighter note, Baucus, a 72-year-old running buff, said he wanted to run the Beijing Marathon, although he admitted - without mentioning the capital's notorious air pollution - that he may not be able to do so.

"I've actually got my eye on the Beijing Marathon. But to be more honest, maybe scale down to half-marathon - something a little shorter," he said to laughter from his colleagues.

Speaking later to reporters, Baucus said that he expected to be busy handling the heated maritime disputes between Beijing and its neighbours in the East China and South China seas. He said a priority was to "sincerely work with China to try to help develop confidence and trust".

Baucus said it was not decided when he would leave for Beijing, but indicated that incumbent Gary Locke, the first Chinese American in the post, would stay at least until the end of February.