Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Saturday, 16 May 2009 17:13 UK

Obama names ambassador to China

Barack Obama and Jon Huntsman, 16 May 2009
Jon Huntsman is seen as a moderate Republican

US President Barack Obama has named the Republican Governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, as ambassador to China.

Mr Huntsman, 49, is a fluent speaker of Mandarin, which he learnt while serving as a Mormon missionary in Taiwan.

He has served as a deputy trade representative and ambassador to Singapore, and was seen as a potential presidential contender in 2012.

President Obama said he had made the appointment "mindful of its extraordinary significance".

"Given the breadth of issues at stake in our relationship with China, this ambassadorship is as important as any in the world," he said.

The US could most effectively confront global challenges by working together with China, he added.

Mr Huntsman co-chaired the campaign of John McCain, Mr Obama's rival in last year's presidential election, and the president said it would not be the "easiest decision to explain to some members of his party".

"But here is what I also know: I know Jon is the kind of leader that always puts country ahead of party," he said.

Mr Huntsman is seen as a moderate voice within the Republican party, correspondents say.

Standing next to the president at a televised news conference, Mr Huntsman said: "I grew up understanding that the most basic responsibility one has is service to country."

He used a Mandarin saying to underline the point: "Together we work, together we progress."

The post requires Senate confirmation.

Mr Huntsman served as a US trade representative under President George W Bush, and as ambassador to Singapore under his father, President George HW Bush.

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