President Donald Trump has tapped Stephen Biegun, his North Korea envoy, as the next No. 2 at the State Department.
The White House announced the President’s intent to nominate Biegun as deputy secretary of state in a press release on Thursday, and shortly after announced his nomination had been sent to the Senate.
Biegun would take over the role from the current Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who has been nominated to be ambassador to Russia.
A senior State Department official said that Biegun will keep his North Korea portfolio even if he is confirmed for the deputy role. He was appointed to the role of US special representative for North Korea in August 2018 to lead efforts to negotiate “the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.” Those negotiations have largely stalled.
North Korea fired two “unidentified projectiles” into the waters between South Korea and Japan on Thursday afternoon, the South Korean government said in a statement.
If confirmed, Biegun would take on the role amid intense speculation about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s political future. In numerous interviews, Pompeo has downplayed the prospect of a Senate bid, despite his frequent trips to his home state of Kansas.
“I’ve talked about this many times. I’m going to continue to be America’s secretary of state as long as President Trump wants to have me on the team,” Pompeo told Fox & Friends on Monday after spending several days in the Sunflower State.
However, should Pompeo decide to run and leave his post, Biegun would step in as the top US diplomat.
Biegun has a wide swath of support from former national security officials including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Defense secretaries Ash Carter and William Cohen, and former Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough, according to statements of support released by the State Department.
Prior to joining the Trump administration, Biegun worked as vice president of international governmental relations for Ford Motor Company, according to his State Department biography. In addition to his private sector work, Biegun served in a number of foreign policy and government roles, including as as national security adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, executive secretary of the National Security Council and chief of staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.