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Begich Secures Review of Diplomatic Policy on Chinese Visits to Alaska

Dated Policy Makes No Sense with Alaska’s Number 1 Trade Partner

At the request of U.S. Senator Mark Begich, the U.S. State Department is reviewing a long-standing policy which singles out Alaska for restrictions when it comes to visits by high-ranking diplomats from China, Alaska’s largest international trading partner.

At issue is a policy apparently adopted in the early 1990’s which requires high-level Chinese diplomats to obtain special State Department permission to visit Alaska.   Alaska is the only state singled out for this restriction, which was imposed because the Chinese government places restrictions on U.S. diplomats seeking to visit Tibet.

“I understand and support our nation’s ability to control foreign visits to sensitive locations, but singling out the entire state of Alaska as America’s only ‘closed’ state achieves no security or diplomatic goal and instead may impede business between Alaska and China,” Begich recently wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry’s office responded, saying it “has recently initiative a review of its current reciprocal response to the travel impediments our U.S. government and military personnel experience in China.”

Begich discovered the little known policy when he invited Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Tiankai Cui to Alaska this past August. Just days before Cui was scheduled to travel to Alaska, the State Department required him to seek special permission. At Begich’s request, the trip was approved and the ambassador and a delegation of Chinese diplomats spent several days in Alaska meeting with business leaders to explore to new trade and cultural opportunities.

Begich told Kerry that Alaska serves as the gateway to Asia and is the closet state to major American trading partners such as Japan, Korea, China and Russia. International trade, especially to these Pacific nations, is a significant part of Alaska’s economy, accounting for thousands of Alaskan jobs.

The senator noted that because of the importance of international commerce to Alaska, he was recently appointed to the President’s Export Council. He also was asked to chair the Senate Interparliamentary Council on China, which leads the Senate’s relationship with Chinese legislators.

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