Biden picks Asia hand Kurt Campbell as deputy secretary of state

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated one of his top national security aides, Kurt Campbell, as deputy secretary of state, a move that will put a veteran Asia hand in the No. 2 position at the U.S. State Department.

The announcement comes two weeks before Biden hopes to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in San Francisco. A senior U.S. official said on Tuesday that an “agreement in principle” for the meeting had been reached.

Campbell, 66, currently serves as coordinator forIndo-Pacific Affairs on the National Security Council. He previously founded and led The Asia Group, a strategic advisory and capital management group.

His nomination as deputy secretary of state will require Senate confirmation.

Campbell is viewed as an intellectual author of then-President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy, a vaunted but so far still limited rebalancing of resources to the region.

He outlined his approach to Asia in a 2016 book “The Pivot,” which advocated strengthening existing alliances and building closer relations with states like India and Indonesia in the face of a rising China.

China poses a daunting diplomatic challenge for the United States, which wants to counter its growing military without provoking a conflict and to curb what Washington views as the country’s unfair business practices while avoiding an all-out trade war.

At the White House, Campbell has overseen the difficult relationship with China, which under the Trump and Biden administrations has deteriorated to its lowest level since normalization of diplomatic ties with Beijing in 1979.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and David Brunnstrom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)