White House Top Asia Aide Confirmed as State Department’s No. 2

State Department — The U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s top Asia aide, Kurt Campbell, as the deputy secretary of state on Tuesday.

Campbell is replacing Wendy Sherman, who retired on July 28, and will now serve as the State Department’s second-ranking diplomat behind Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

During Campbell’s tenure as the White House National Security Council coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs, he emphasized that the United States, while in competition with China, does not seek conflict or confrontation. He has said the U.S. is committed to working with allies and managing competition with China responsibly. 

In his prepared testimony for his nomination hearing in December, Campbell stated, “Today’s challenges are truly global. What happens in one region affects the others. Our competitors are collaborating – just look at China, Iran, and North Korea’s support for Russia’s war of aggression. We are stronger across-the-board due to our alliances and partnerships.”

“China believes that we are in hurtling decline. It is critical that we prove otherwise,” he told U.S. senators during the nomination hearing.

Campbell has also underscored the urgency of advancing new 20-year funding agreements with three Pacific Island nations—Micronesia, Marshall Islands, and Palau—to counter Beijing’s regional influence.

During the nomination hearing, he voiced serious concerns over North Korea’s alarming actions, including the provision of military equipment to Russia amid its aggression in Ukraine and the enhancement of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear capabilities. 

“I am worried that North Korea in the current environment has decided that they are no longer interested in diplomacy with the United States. And that means that we’re going to have to focus even more on deterrence,” he told lawmakers from the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs.

North Korea has consistently rejected U.S. outreach despite repeated efforts. The last diplomatic engagement took place in Vietnam between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and former president Donald Trump. Since then, North Korea has rebuffed every attempt by the U.S. to reach out, including offers of vaccines and humanitarian aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Campbell was assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2009 to 2013 under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Campbell played a crucial role during the administration of former President Barack Obama in shaping Washington’s “pivot to Asia” policy, which reoriented U.S. foreign policy toward that region.