Senator blocks State Department confirmation

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. senator has held up the confirmation process for President Barack Obama's nominee to oversee East Asian and Pacific affairs at the State Department, according to diplomatic and congressional sources Friday.

Daniel Russel, senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council, had a confirmation hearing last week. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved his nomination for a floor vote.

Many observers expected Russel to begin work at the department before the start of the Independence Day holiday recess next week.

But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has placed a "blanket hold" on the nominations of Russel and Samantha Power, Obama's choice for ambassador to the United Nations, taking issue with the absence of an inspector general at the State Department.

It is uncertain how long the senator will keep the hold, a measure apparently aimed at pressing the Obama administration to nominate an inspector general.

At his confirmation hearing, Russel pledged to work hard to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

"If confirmed, I will actively pursue the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and work to block North Korea's efforts to proliferate and to blackmail its neighbors," he said.

The post of assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs has been vacant since late February, when Kurt Campbell retired.

Joe Yun, a Korean-American veteran diplomat, has been serving as acting assistant secretary.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>