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With the US Senate giving the green light to John Kerry's nomination in a lopsided vote on Tuesday, the Democratic Senator is set to replace Hillary Clinton as the country's top diplomat. How Kerry will make his mark on US foreign policy will be under close scrutiny.
Clinton's four-year term as the US Secretary of State had an inglorious ending last week when she gave testimony at a Senate hearing into the Sept 11 assault on the US mission in Benghazi, eastern Libya. The attack, which killed US Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, was perceived as a major diplomatic setback to the United States. It also aroused criticism at the US' Middle East policy.
In the past years, the Obama administration has resorted to intervention and sanctions as the world community sought to tackle major crises in the region, such as the ongoing Syria crisis, the Libya conflict and the Iranian nuclear standoff. It has taken an uncompromising stance toward other pivotal issues in the region too.
Kerry will be tested on how he will respond to calls for a readjustment of the country's policy in the Middle East. Last week, Kerry said at his Senate confirmation hearing that he looked to diplomatic means to solve the Iran issue and hoped for a revival of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Kerry should be advised that the US needs to rethink its interventionist mindset approach to pave the way for a major policy change in the region. If the US intends to make a major diplomatic breakthrough in the region, it needs to opt for a more engaging and compromising approach, which would help assuage the anti-US sentiment in the region.
In the past two years, the US has also taken substantial steps to implement its strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific. Emboldened by this, some countries in the region have raised tensions over maritime territorial disputes with China in the East and South China seas.
At last week's hearing, Kerry said he supports deeper ties with China and is unconvinced the US needs to ramp up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. This stance has been interpreted as a positive signal. As a country that claims to have a stake in the region's peace and development, the US should be fully aware of the impact its rising military presence in the region has on regional peace and stability.
(China Daily 01/31/2013 page8)