The Senate confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield as US ambassador to the UN, overcoming Republican complaints that she had been too deferential to China in a 2019 speech given at a Beijing-sponsored institute.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield, a career diplomat with experience across four continents and a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, was approved Tuesday by a vote of 78-20.
“Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has the expertise, the strength and the character to deliver on these priorities: to stand up to the challenges we face from China, to regain US leverage and influence in the Security Council, to re-engage our allies and hold Iran accountable, and to stand firm when Israel is subject to biased attacks,” Robert Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Monday.
With her confirmation, President Joe Biden's national security team is now largely in place as it faces challenges such as resuming nuclear negotiations with Iran, restoring trust with allies and confronting an emboldened China and Russia.
As a black woman, she also contributes to Biden’s promise of a more diverse administration.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield has pledged to restore US diplomacy and multilateralism at the UN after the Trump administration’s “America First” approach.
UN officials praised Ms Thomas-Greenfield's "effectiveness and dedication" and said they looked forward to working with her on "climate, the recovery from Covid and the many other global issues that are on our shared agenda", UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
Over the past four years, the US repeatedly clashed with the UN and its organisations, withdrawing from the Human Rights Council and the World Health Organisation.
Speaking at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, Ms Thomas-Greenfield pledged to restore American leadership at the UN and said China is trying to drive “an authoritarian agenda that stands in opposition to the founding values of the institution — American values.”
She stressed that American leadership must be rooted in the country’s core values — “support for democracy, respect for universal human rights and the promotion of peace and security”. She said that effective diplomacy means developing “robust relationships”, finding common ground, managing differences and “doing genuine, old-fashioned, people-to-people diplomacy”.
But Republican senators extracted statements of regret from the nominee for her speech to the China-funded Confucius Institute at Savannah State University in Georgia. She said she had expressed too positive a view of Beijing's role in Africa at the time.