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EghtesadOnline: Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to China, said there “may well be” a role for sanctions to punish Chinese companies that do business with North Korea in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“I would hope that recent events have convinced China that they would take this much more seriously,” Branstad told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday when asked about the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Asked if he saw room for secondary sanctions, he said, “I think there may well be.”

According to Bloomberg, the session with the veteran Republican governor lacked the tense exchanges that marked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearings, with senators on both sides of the aisle saying they looked forward to confirming him. Branstad, 70, said he hoped to use his friendship with President Xi Jinping, dating back to the Chinese leader’s visit to Iowa in 1985, to improve ties.

That’s in keeping with the approach by Trump, who’s described Xi as a “highly respected” leader after they met at the U.S. president’s private club in Florida last month. Trump has said he’s counting on Xi to press North Korea, its neighbor and main trading partner, to curb its nuclear program.

Fentanyl, Chickens

While the Branstad hearing focused largely on North Korea, lawmakers also turned to topics such as China’s role as a leading global suppler of the opioid fentanyl, which they said is driving a plague of addiction in their states. Senators also protested that China restricts imports of U.S. chickens, dumps steel on U.S. markets and violates intellectual property rights.

“I am committed to making sure that the trade relationship between the United States and China puts the American worker first,” Branstad said. He also said he would do what he could to “stop the unfair and illegal activities from China we’ve seen in the steel industry.”

The governor, who invoked his farm state’s geography to make his points, said he was well aware of the issue because of a steel mill outside of Muscatine.

Relations with China have been "trending in the wrong direction for several years,” said Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the committee. “There’s no country in the world we have so many issues with.”

Donald Trump Terry Branstad US-China relationship US-North Korea