US Senator John Kerry has been confirmed as the country's next Secretary of State, after a 94-3 vote by the US Senate. He will assume the post next week, after current Secretary Hillary Clinton steps down on Friday. Speaking on his policy positions before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing last week, Mr. Kerry said that he, like President Obama, was keen to pivot away from the Middle East to focus on Asia.
Report: Senate Confirms Kerry As Secretary of State [Voice of America, 29 Jan 2013]
Report: Kerry: An Outsider Finally Gets In [TIME, 25 Jan 2013]
Mr. Kerry told the committee that he supports deeper ties wih China, and is unconvinced the US needs to further increase its military presence in Asia, as this could prompt Chinese concern of encirclement. However, he clarified he is not suggesting retreating from "current levels".
Another of Mr. Kerry's goals is to help US businesses expand overseas, including economic engagement with countries like Egypt and Libya.
Although he condemned reports of anti-Semitic remarks by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, he said stability in Egypt is "critical to everything that we aspire to see happen in the Middle East — peace with Israel, protection of the Sinai, security, the development of that part of the world with respect to an economy that is open and competitive and based on rule of law and rules of the road".
Regarding other Middle East issues, Mr. Kerry also indicated he supports President Obama’s position of "prevention, not containment" on Iran. On Syria, although Mr. Kerry has seemingly expressed sympathy to the idea of arming the Syrian opposition, in the hearing he agreed with the official US position that adding weapons to the mix could escalate the situation.
Mr. Kerry has served as the US Senator from Massachusetts since 1985, and was the seventh most senior US Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is stepping down from his Senate posts to succeed Ms. Clinton as Secretary. Mr. Kerry was also the Democratic presidential candidate in the 2004 election, running against incumbent President George W. Bush.