BREAKING NEWS: US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad stepping down as tensions with Beijing rise

Then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and then-Iowa Governor Terry Branstad raise their glasses in a toast at a state dinner on February 15, 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.Then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and then-Iowa Governor Terry Branstad raise their glasses in a toast at a state dinner on February 15, 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Amidst the ongoing deteriorating relationship between the US and China, Terry Branstad will be stepping down as United States Ambassador to China after more than three years in Beijing, a source confirmed to CNN Monday. Branstad is expected to leave Beijing before the November US Presidential election, the source said. The announcement comes amid increasing tensions between the US and China on several fronts. The Chinese government announced on Friday it would be imposing unspecified restrictions on senior US diplomats and personnel inside China after Washington put in place a similar measure targeting Beijing’s diplomatic corps on September 3.

In a Twitter post early Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Branstad for his service to the American people as the US Ambassador. President Donald Trump chose Ambassador Branstad because his decades-long experience dealing with China made him the best person to represent the Administration and to defend American interests and ideals in this important relationship,” Pompeo said. Pompeo didn’t give a reason for Branstad’s departure, or any announcement about a potential successor to the important diplomatic post. Branstad was one of then-President-elect Trump’s first ambassadorial picks in December 2016, shortly after Trump won the US Presidential election.

Trump said at the time that the then-Iowa governor was picked for his experience in public policy, trade and agriculture, as well as his long-time relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom Branstad had known since 1985 through US-China government exchanges. During that period, the two were believed to have maintained a friendship of sorts, with Xi meeting again with Branstad during a visit to the US in 2012 while still vice-president.

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