The new US ambassador to China Terry Branstad delivers a speech during a press conference in Beijing. Photo: AFP

Donald Trump’s newly minted ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, has at long last arrived in Beijing, and began his post by striking a decidedly friendly tone in a press conference outside his residence. That is only to be expected of a man referred to by China’s foreign ministry as “old friend.”

Speaking on North Korea and trade, Branstad emphasized the need to work together constructively.

“We recognize this is an important relationship between the two greatest economic powers in the world,” he said. “We want to work together to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

“Being the governor of an agricultural state, we sell a lot of soybeans and pork in China. We’re excited about the trade expansion,” Branstad added, highlighting the resumption of beef exports to China.

On a more sensitive topic the ambassador was careful not to plead directly for China to let its most high-profile political prisoner, Liu Xiaobo, leave the country for medical treatment in the United States, amid the urging from human rights groups. Liu has been released on medical leave from prison, after being sentenced to 10 years for advocating democratic reforms.

“We Americans would like to see him have the opportunity for treatment if that could be of help,” he said. “But it’s important that we work together between our two countries to address these important human-rights issues.”