Washington-The US ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, is stepping down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday.

Thanking Branstad for his service, Pompeo said in a tweet that he had “contributed to rebalancing U.S.-China relations so that it (sic) is results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair.”

The former two-term Iowa governor, 73, had been in the post since May 2017, representing Washington in Beijing during a period of strained ties with China, marked by tensions over trade, regional territorial claims, the coronavirus pandemic, and unrest in Hong Kong.

In June, he was summoned by Beijing after President Donald Trump signed a law that paved the way for sanctions over Hong Kong, an action the foreign ministry slammed as “gross interference in China’s internal affairs”.

The reasons for the ambassador’s departure were not immediately clear.