Ambassador Terry Branstad is back home in Iowa for the first time since assuming his post in China, arriving for his brother’s funeral in Winnebago County on Monday, and planning to spend the holidays here.
Branstad traveled back to the state with his wife Chris, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters. They will attend Christmas Mass at Christ the King Church in Des Moines and return to China on January 3rd.
Branstad was working at a desk in the governor’s offices Wednesday, catching up on ambassador business.
An aide stopped him from discussing embassy affairs, but he said that in recent weeks he has traveled to the Chinese border with North Korea.
“I was there three days after they had the nuclear test,” Branstad said. “I met with the party secretary who's the top person up there.”
Branstad said as U.S. Ambassador he is addressing the issues of trade and China’s role in the distribution of the deadly opioid fentanyl, in addition to the nuclear threat from North Korea.
“I think we've gotten more cooperation from China than we’ve ever gotten but there’s still more that nee
ds to be done to try to convince North Korea that this course they're on, this is the most dangerous thing to humankind right now this nuclear and ballistic missile program they're embarked on,” Branstad said.
Branstad said his family is enjoying life in China, including his 5-year old granddaughter Stella.
“She can count to ten and sing Happy Birthday in Chinese so she did that at the Terrace Hill Tea,” Branstad said.
Branstad was casually dressed as he worked on Wednesday, and appeared fatigued.
“It’s a 13-hour trip and a 14-hour difference in the time zone,” Branstad said. “I hope to get back to a regular schedule.”
Branstad’s brother, Monroe "Monte" Branstad, who was 67, died Wednesday at a Mason City hospital after a recent illness.