Antony Blinken sworn in U.S. Secretary of State

He is expected to revitalise State Department and increase diversity of its workforce

January 27, 2021 12:20 pm | Updated January 28, 2021 01:44 am IST

After his 78 to 22 confirmation at the Senate, new U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had an administrative swearing-in on Tuesday at the State Department, after which he got to work and spoke to his counterparts from Japan, South Korea, Canada, and Mexico on the phone.

Speaking to Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Mr. Blinken called the alliance between their two countries “the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity for a free and open Indo-Pacific region and across the globe,” according to a State Department readout of the call.

“Secretary Blinken highlighted the importance of continued U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea cooperation and stressed President Biden’s pledge to strengthen U.S. alliances and engage with the world again,” the readout said.

On his call with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, Mr. Blinken again brought up the importance of the U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral relationship and “affirmed the enduring strength and importance of the U.S.-ROK Alliance, the lynchpin of peace, security, and prosperity for a free and open Indo-Pacific region and across the world. ”

He also “underscored the continued need for the denuclearisation of North Korea and stressed President Biden’s commitment to strengthening U.S. alliances,” the readout said.

“We will revitalise American diplomacy to advance our interests and values in the world as it is – not as it was,” Mr. Blinken, 58, tweeted on Tuesday. “Together, we will implement @POTUS Biden’s vision of a foreign policy that promotes America’s security, prosperity, and values – and that delivers for the American people,” he wrote.

Tweeting pictures of his swearing-in, Mr. Blinken, who, during Barack Obama’s final term, was second in command at the State Department as Deputy Secretary, wrote, “I want to thank my colleagues for welcoming me home.”

Mr. Blinken is expected to oversee America’s re-engagement with the world via multilateral forums. He will also seek to strengthen multilateral relationships and move away from a transactional “America First” emphasis that characterised the Trump administration’s foreign policy. During his confirmation hearing, he said America should approach the world with “humility and confidence,” and that no country, however powerful, could address the world’s problems alone.

U.S.-China ties

However, Mr. Blinken also agreed with some areas of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. For instance, on the tough line against China, he told Senators that he agreed with the principle but disagreed “very much” with the way the former President went about handling the U.S-China relationship. He called India a “bipartisan success story.”

At home, Mr. Blinken is expected to try and revitalise the State Department and increase the diversity of its workforce.

The Department has close to a 1,000 fewer staff than when Mr. Blinken left it. Many have quit over the last four years, demoralised first with the leadership of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then Mike Pompeo, including as the 2019 Trump impeachment unfolded. Some career professionals had been edged out for political reasons.

Last week, Mr. Blinken told Senators that the State Department will be a “nonpartisan institution” on his watch.

The new Secretary was sworn in ceremonially by Vice-President Kamala Harris shortly before noon on Wednesday, as per the White House.

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