US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who managed delicate relations with China and earlier led painstaking negotiations with Iran and North Korea, said Friday she would retire, exactly 30 years after her first State Department job.
The 73-year-old fixture of Democratic Party foreign policy circles said she would step down at the end of June. Her successor, who will need Senate confirmation, was not immediately announced.
“As deputy secretary, I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done to address an astonishing array of challenges — Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, challenges in the Indo-Pacific, Covid-19 — while uniting allies and partners to advance our shared vision of a brighter future,” she wrote on Twitter.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken saluted his number two, especially for her engagement in Asia and her efforts to unite allies to support Ukraine.
“She has overseen our efforts to strengthen the Department’s capabilities to manage our relationship with the People’s Republic of China, and built greater convergence with allies and partners,” Blinken said in a statement.
Sherman traveled to China after President Joe Biden took office in 2021, holding tense but quiet talks on the wide-ranging rivalry between the world’s two largest economic powers.
She also paid early trips to Turkey and Egypt, longstanding US allies from which Biden had initially promised a greater distance due to human rights concerns.
A veteran negotiator, Sherman brokered nuclear deals with North Korea under Bill Clinton and with Iran under Barack Obama. Both agreements collapsed under subsequent Republican presidents.
Sherman in a memoir gave an unusually personal account of negotiations with the Iranians in Vienna, recalling how her counterparts’ last-minute raising of a new point of contention nearly brought her to tears.
She wrote that her reaction stunned the Iranians into silence and they dropped their objections.
“That’s when it clicked into place for me. When you bring values like authenticity, persistence and commitment to the negotiating table, both in work and personal life, you are enormously powerful,” she wrote.
Born to a Jewish family in Baltimore, Sherman began her career as a social worker and became active in Democratic Party politics. Before her career as a diplomat, she led Emily’s List, which works to elect women who support abortion rights.