U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun was nominated as deputy secretary of state by President Donald Trump on Thursday (local time). Should he be promoted to No. 2 at the State Department, Biegun could push harder for progress in nuclear talks with North Korea.
The White House announced Thursday that President Trump nominated the current Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan to be the next ambassador to Russia and Stephen Biegun would take over his role. CNN quoted a senior State Department official as saying that “Biegun will keep his North Korea portfolio even if he is confirmed for the deputy role.” Biegun also confirmed his stance in a meeting with South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Soo-hyuck that he will actively lead efforts for the negotiations with the North regardless of the change of his role within the State Department, according to the South Korean embassy in the U.S.
If confirmed by the Senate, Biegun will become the State Department’s No. 2 official after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to statements of support released by the department, Biegun enjoys broad support by former diplomats and related officials in Washington including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough.
Some speculate that Biegun will replace Mike Pompeo as the top U.S. diplomat, who is reportedly mulling a U.S. Senate run. “I’m going to continue to be America’s secretary of state as long as President wants to have me on the team,” Pompeo told Fox on Monday, brushing aside such prospects, but his frequent trips to his home state of Kansas are stoking speculation about his possible Senate bid.
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