The U.S. Senate has confirmed Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as the next ambassador to China.

The confirmation came by a bipartisan vote of 82 to 13 Monday, with all 13 of the votes against the Republican president’s nominee coming from Democrats.

Washington has been trying to persuade China to agree to new sanctions on Pyongyang, which has conducted dozens of missile firings and tested two nuclear bombs since the start of 2016.

President Donald Trump has warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible over its weapons programs, although U.S. officials say tougher sanctions, not military force, are the preferred option.

Branstad says he intends to use his decades-long relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping to advance U.S. and international interests. The two met in 1985 when Xi, then a provincial official, led an agricultural trade delegation to Iowa.  

Xi has called Branstad, 70, an “old friend” after decades of dealings on agricultural trade during his long career in politics in Iowa, an important farming state.

Branstad is in his sixth nonconsecutive term as Iowa’s governor. With more than 22 years at the helm of state government, he is the country’s longest-serving governor. He is due to be replaced in Des Moines by Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, who would be the state’s first female governor.

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