He speaks fluent Mandarin; one of his seven children was adopted from China; he has done missionary work in Taiwan; he was a U.S. Ambassador to Singapore; and he was re-elected for a second term as Utah Governor with 20% more of the popular vote than the first time around. These are just some of the reasons why @BarackObama’s pending U.S. Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman Jr., needs to be confirmed ASAP, so that he can head over to Beijing and be in place if needed to intercede in the Laura Ling–Euna Lee situation.
Though there is still a chance that the Ling–Lee matter will somehow remain above the fray of this week’s rapidly devolving name calling between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, the diplomatic prognosis is not good. It’s hard to imagine the “delicate” negotiations for the journalists’ freedom, reported by Chosun Ilbo to have just begun, not being negatively impacted by the nuclear standoff.
A fresh back channel effort by way of the renegade nation’s powerful neighbor and historical ally, China, could soon be our best Ling–Lee back-up strategy. Huntsman is almost too good to be true: a son of a billionaire who went from dropping out of high school and pursuing rock ‘n’ roll ambitions to graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. Years later, during his first term as Utah governor, he sat in on keyboards for a couple of songs at an REO Speedwagon concert.
Today in Washington, Huntsman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would pursue human rights issues and work from his post to try and help convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. As if that weren’t enough, Huntsman also has a healthy sense of humor; introduced at the hearing by @SenJohnMcCain and others, he later in the face of an overwhelmingly positive reception said he hopes he does this well at his funeral.
Update – 08/07/09: Hooray! Huntsman was confirmed as Chinese Ambassador today through a voice vote in the Senate.