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Burns says China would be his top priority as Biden's CIA director

By Jonna Lorenz
1/5
CIA director nominee William Burns testifies Wednesday during his Senate confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Tom Williams/UPI/Pool
CIA director nominee William Burns testifies Wednesday during his Senate confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by Tom Williams/UPI/Pool | License Photo

Feb. 24 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden's nominee to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency received bipartisan support during his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

William Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia and Jordan, said addressing challenges the United States faces from China will be his top priority.

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Burns was introduced by former Republican Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who both recommended his confirmation.

"I can't think of anybody that has the breadth of experience that you've had in the world," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, according to NBC News.

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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, praised Burns for his "lengthy and distinguished career," The Washington Post reported.

Burns outlined four priorities for his the CIA under his leadership -- China, technology, people and partnerships.

"Today's landscape is increasingly complicated and competitive," he said. "It's a world where familiar threats persist -- from terrorism and nuclear proliferation, to an aggressive Russia, a provocative North Korea, and a hostile Iran.

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"But it's also a world of new challenges, in which climate change and global health insecurity are taking a heavy toll on the American people; in which cyber threats pose an ever-greater risk to our society; and in which and adversarial, predatory Chinese leadership poses our biggest geopolitical test."

Burns pledged to keep politics out of the CIA and deliver information with honesty and integrity. He also promised to "get to the bottom" of the mysterious illnesses seen in American diplomats who served in Cuba, known as the "Havana syndrome," attributed to an attack of unknown origin in 2017.

"If I'm confirmed as director of CIA, I will have no higher priority than taking care of people, of colleagues and their families," Burns said, according to CBS News. "And I do commit to you that if I'm confirmed, I will make it an extraordinarily high priority to get to the bottom of who's responsible for the attacks."

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Burns, 64, previously served as deputy secretary of state under former President Barack Obama and under secretary of state for political affairs.

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Housing and Urban Development Secretary. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (L) looks on as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Fudge, the first Black woman to lead the department in decades, speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

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