By Echo Wang and Michael Martina
NEW YORK (Reuters) – China’s new ambassador to Washington Xie Feng said on Tuesday that he will seek to enhance China-U.S. cooperation, but that relations face serious challenges.
“I have come here to safeguard China’s interest. This is my sacred responsibility,” Xie told reporters after landing at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“I’m also the envoy of Chinese people, so I’ve come here to enhance China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation,” said Xie, who has garnered a reputation for often blunt rebukes of U.S. actions as ties between the strategic rivals have deteriorated over issues ranging from Taiwan to trade.
Xie, 59, most recently served as a vice foreign minister charged with overseeing policy toward the U.S. at a time when many analysts say relations between the world’s two largest economies are in their worst state since they were formally established in 1979.
Relations faced “serious difficulties and challenges,” Xie said in his brief remarks before departing the airport and boarding a van. Chinese officials said he would drive to Washington.
A fluent English speaker who was previously posted twice to China’s Washington embassy, Xie lodged China’s formal denunciation in February for Washington “obstinately” shooting down what it suspected was a Chinese spy balloon after its flight over the United States spurred a diplomatic crisis.
Beijing has argued it was a civilian airship.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. welcomed Xie’s arrival.
“We look forward to working with the ambassador designate and his team. We remain committed, as we said on a number of occasions, to maintain channels of communication with the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to responsibly manage competition,” Miller said.
(Reporting by Echo Wang and Michael Martina; editing by Grant McCool)