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Trump taps North Korea envoy to be No. 2 at State Dept

 Trump taps North Korea envoy to be No. 2 at State Dept
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President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Race debate grips Congress US reentry to Paris agreement adds momentum to cities' sustainability efforts MORE plans to nominate North Korea envoy Stephen Biegun to serve as deputy secretary of State, the White House announced Thursday.

If confirmed, Biegun will replace John Sullivan, who is expected to be confirmed to serve as U.S. ambassador to Russia. 

Biegun has been at the forefront of U.S. efforts to broker an agreement with Pyongynag to stem its nuclear program, a key priority of Trump’s foreign policy efforts that has seemed to stall in recent months as North Korea has test-fired ballistic missiles. 

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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoWhy the US needs to clear the way for international justice Tim Scott to participate in GOP event in Iowa Progressive lawmaker to introduce bill seeking more oversight of Israel assistance MORE tapped Biegun to serve as U.S. special representative for North Korea in August 2018. He was brought onto the department shortly after Trump’s first historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnExclusive: GOP senators seek FBI investigation into Biden Pentagon nominee On North Korea, Biden should borrow from Trump's Singapore declaration North Korea drops out of Tokyo Olympics MORE in June of last year.

Biegun’s nomination was officially sent to the Senate just minutes after it was announced on Thursday.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Trump was expected to select Biegun to serve as deputy secretary of State, a position that is subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Biegun, a former Ford Motor executive, has served in various posts in the executive and legislative branches throughout his career. He served as a senior aide to then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice under the George W. Bush administration. He also served in various national security advisory and staff posts on House and Senate committees.

Rice endorsed Biegun's nomination, calling him an "excellent choice" and describing him as both a strong diplomat and a seasoned manager. 

"Steve Biegun has enormous talent and vast experience in both the public and private sectors," Rice said in a statement provided by the State Department. "Everyone he’s worked with, myself included, has tremendous respect for him as a person, a colleague and a leader.”

The White House said earlier this month that Trump planned to nominate Sullivan to replace outgoing Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman. Sullivan has been in the No. 2 role at State since the days when Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet With salami-slicing and swarming tactics, China's aggression continues Lawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office MORE headed the department, and his move offered Pompeo the opportunity to weigh in on a deputy of his choice.

The move to elevate Biegun comes as the State Department faces continued scrutiny in connection with the House impeachment inquiry into the Trump administration’s policy on Ukraine.

House Democrats are investigating the circumstances surrounding a July 25 call with Ukraine’s leader during which Trump raised investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Democrats to offer bill to expand Supreme Court Former Israeli prime minister advises Iran to 'cool down' amid nuclear threats MORE and his son, Hunter. A number of career officials and political appointees from the State Department have testified behind closed doors in connection with the inquiry.

Sullivan sat for his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, during which he fielded numerous questions about the impeachment inquiry and Trump attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGreitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP Gaetz hires legal counsel amid DOJ probe Georgia lieutenant governor: Giuliani election claims helped lead to new voting law MORE’s involvement in an effort to oust the now former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.