On May 20, 2020, the State Department announced the passing of the U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Matthew J. Matthews.
Sad news — @SecPompeo announces that US Ambassador to Brunei Matthew Matthews has died.
“We have lost a true leader, mentor, and colleague in our community and will miss him dearly.” pic.twitter.com/eMNhg944Wk
— Jennifer Hansler (@jmhansler) May 21, 2020
Via US Embassy BSB:
Matthew J. Matthews was sworn in as the U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam on March 29, 2019. Matt was most recently U.S. Ambassador for APEC and concurrently the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands from June 2015 to March 2019. From 2013 to 2015, he served as the Foreign Policy Advisor to Admiral Locklear, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, and as the Deputy Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong from 2010 to 2013. Matt focused on multilateral trade agreements as the Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2007-10), and at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia (2004-07). His earlier postings include two tours in Beijing, two tours in Taipei, Islamabad, Hong Kong, and Washington, DC. He speaks fluent Mandarin.
Matt grew up in Portland, Oregon. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon, attended the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies in Taipei, and earned a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. He is married to Rachel Lin Matthews and has two adult children who reside in the United States.
Ambassador Matthews is a career diplomat and a member of the Senior Foreign Service. His deputy at the US Embassy in Brunei Darussalam is Scott E. Woodard who arrived in Brunei in August 2017 to take up his current position as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bandar Seri Begawan.
Deputy Sullivan was pleased to swear in Matt Matthews as the new Ambassador to #Brunei. Ambassador Matthews has over three decades of experience, including as EAP’s Deputy Assistant Secretary and Ambassador to @APEC, and will be an excellent steward of the US-Brunei relationship. pic.twitter.com/ylkx8kxxqk
— EAP Bureau (@USAsiaPacific) March 30, 2019
Ambassador Matthews recently travelled to Kuala Belalong in Temburong for the first time where he met with Dr. Ulmar Grafe from UBD and Dr. Rolf Mueller from Virginia Tech to visit UBD’s Field Study Center and experience the Canopy Walkway. #Brunei pic.twitter.com/99Ri1MrznO
— U.S. Embassy BSB (@USEmbassyBSB) November 5, 2019
— U.S. Embassy BSB (@USEmbassyBSB) November 4, 2019
Ambassador Matthews hosted a reception showcasing the talents of American Bluegrass band, Henhouse Prowlers (@hhp). Ambassador Matthews even joined in for a special rendition of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’! 🇺🇸🇧🇳🎼#BluegrassAmbassadors #ArtsEnvoy #BluegrassInBrunei #Brunei pic.twitter.com/9n536z0ebp
— U.S. Embassy BSB (@USEmbassyBSB) November 20, 2019
Featured in the April 2020 issue of State Magazine (published by the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources) is an article by Russell J. Westergard, the deputy consular chief at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan, China.
By mid-October 2019, the dedicated team at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan knew that the city had been struck by what was thought to be an unusually vicious flu season. The disease worsened in November. When city officials began to close public schools in mid-December to control the spread of the disease, the team passed the word to Embassy Beijing and continued monitoring. The possibility of a new viral outbreak was always on the consulate’s radar. Still, the working assumption in every scenario had always been that, as in past outbreaks like H1N1 (known as swine flu), it would appear in rural areas first and then spread to major urban centers across China.
When the Chinese government announced on December 29th that the new and novel coronavirus (COVID-19) had been identified and traced to a live animal market near the U.S. consulate, it caught the team’s attention. Four hectic weeks later, ConGen Wuhan closed under ordered departure with the consulate team pulling off what some people involved have since described as a minor miracle. Consulate staff found themselves at the airport of a paralyzed city preparing to evacuate family members and other U.S. citizens from what would turn out to be ground zero of a deadly global pandemic.
Fast forward to the second week in February. As the ConGen Wuhan team, family members, and the rest of the 195 passengers on board that first flight from Wuhan concluded their 14-day quarantine at the March Air Reserve Base (ARB) in Southern California, the joy and a collective sigh of relief were audible.
Read in full here.
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo announced that on February 17 at 0705 JST, two charter flights carrying passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship departed Tokyo en route to the United States.
This letter was sent to American passengers and crew on Sunday morning. It includes details on the repatriation operation as well as information for those who opts not to board. Letter in part says “Based on the high number of COVID-19 cases identified onboard the Diamond Princess, the Department of Health and Human Services made an assessment that passengers and crew members onboard are at high risk of exposure. Given this assessment, the U.S. Government is chartering these flights to minimize the risks to your health going forward.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released a statement on repatriation of American passengers and crew.
The letter further notes that passengers on the chartered aircraft will be quarantined in the United States at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California or Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas for 14 days upon arrival. However, it looks like the two flights initially landed in California and Texas, then proceeded to Nebraska with a few patients considered “high risk.”. One local report says that “13 Americans who were on the cruise ship in Japan arrived in Omaha today.”
— Kent Luetzen (@KentLuetzen) February 17, 2020
Two planes took off from Japan.
One landed in California with 177 patients.
One landed in Texas with 151 patients.
From those locations, positive or “high risk” patients were brought to Omaha.
This is why there was two planes at Eppley this morning.
— Kent Luetzen (@KentLuetzen) February 17, 2020
— アメリカ大使館 (@usembassytokyo) February 16, 2020
Two Department of State charter flights with more than 300 passengers from the #DiamondPrincess will land in the U.S. later today. The United States remains committed to protecting Americans and fighting the spread of #COVID-19. https://t.co/kAX0ry0Dii
— Department of State (@StateDept) February 17, 2020
米国大使館から #ダイヤモンド・プリンセス の米国人乗客に昨夜、このビデオを送りました。
— アメリカ大使館 (@usembassytokyo) February 11, 2020
U.S. Embassy Tokyo and the State Department are providing consular assistance to Americans quarantined on the #DiamondPrincess. Passengers and family members, please use USGShipContact@state.gov to contact us. Also, please continue to monitor @ACSTokyo for updates. https://t.co/0pO9ctscpS
— ジョセフ・M・ヤング 駐日米国臨時代理大使 (@USAmbJapan) February 6, 2020
Via Rappler (Philippines):
On Monday night, February 10, Duterte launched a fresh round of verbal tirades against the US saying while top officials, including President Donald Trump, were trying to salvage the VFA, he was bent on having it terminated. (EXPLAINER: Visiting Forces Agreement)
Duterte first broached his plan to terminate the VFA on January 23, after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa. Dela Rosa is Duterte’s first Philippine National Police chief known as the architect behind the government’s bloody anti-drug campaign.
The President later said he was serious about his decision, adding his choice to do so was anchored on US lawmakers’ moves to impose travel and financial restrictions on Philippine officials linked to the detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima and alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs) under the Duterte administration. (READ: Why the Global Magnitsky Act matters to the Philippines)
— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) February 11, 2020
@DFAPHL The Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of the United States has received the notice of termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement. As a diplomatic courtesy there will be no further factual announcements following this self-explanatory development. https://t.co/qQhywEpcea
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) February 11, 2020
"Behind this veneer of personal grievance lies a long-term desire to wean the Philippines away from the United States and deliver it into a strategic alignment with China before Duterte’s term ends in 2022." Renato De Castro on Duterte scrapping of the VFA https://t.co/AnZDiLMoai
— Greg Poling (@GregPoling) February 11, 2020
READ: U.S. Embassy in the Philippines’ statement on Philippines’ intent to terminate the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). pic.twitter.com/sbUOe1Fwhz
— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) February 11, 2020
President Trump tells us in the Oval that he doesn't mind Philippines' decision to cut U.S. military pact, says it will save the US a lot of money.
— Steve Holland (@steveholland1) February 12, 2020
— Maria Ressa (@mariaressa) February 11, 2020
On February 11, the State Department issued a Level 2 Exercise Increase Caution for the Hong Kong and Macau. The announcement includes public notice of the voluntary evacuation order of February 10 for the consulate general’s non-emergency staff and and their family members due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China (now officially called covid19). Excerpt below:
Exercise Increased Caution due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. Read the entire Travel Advisory.
A novel (new) coronavirus is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness that began in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization determined the rapidly spreading outbreak constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The Hong Kong government has reported cases of the novel coronavirus in its special administrative region, has upgraded its response level to emergency, its highest response level, and is taking other steps to manage the novel Coronavirus outbreak. On February 8, the Hong Kong government began enforcing a compulsory 14-day quarantine for anyone, regardless of nationality, arriving in Hong Kong who has visited mainland China within a 14-day period. This quarantine does not apply to individuals transiting Hong Kong International Airport and certain exempted groups such as flight crews. However, health screening measures are in place at all of Hong Kong’s borders and the Hong Kong authorities will quarantine individual travelers, including passengers transiting the Hong Kong International Airport, if the Hong Kong authorities determine the traveler to be a health risk. Please refer to the Hong Kong government’s press release for further details.
On January 30, the Hong Kong government temporarily closed certain transportation links and border checkpoints connecting Hong Kong with mainland China and on February 3 suspended ferry services from Macau.
On February 10, 2020 the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members due to the novel coronavirus and the impact to Mission personnel as schools and some public facilities have been closed until further notice.
The Department of State has raised the Travel Advisory for mainland China to Level 4: Do Not Travel due to the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Warning: Avoid all nonessential travel to China.
Full advisory available here.
The State Department issued a health alert on February 4 indicating that it “may be staging additional evacuation flights with capacity for private U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis, leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on February 6, 2020. The alert notes that evacuees from Hubei Province will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
“In accordance with the Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus, beginning at 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Sunday, February 2, the United States government will implement temporary measures to increase our abilities to detect and contain the coronavirus proactively and aggressively. Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who has been in Hubei Province in the previous 14 days will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they are provided proper medical care and health screening.”
Military bases in California, Colorado and Texas are currently preparing to accommodate up to 1,000 people who will be quarantined upon arrival. U.S. Northern Command announced that it is expecting 350 inbound passengers in the “initial flights” destined for Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, both in California.
Also see Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
#China: The Dept of State may be staging evacuation flights for US citizens on reimbursable basis leaving #Wuhan Tianhe Airport on 2/6. Interested US citizens with valid passports contact CoronaVirusEmergencyUSC@State.gov. Read this notice before emailing: https://t.co/ivX6xjgLf0 pic.twitter.com/bXn2y0FMtx
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) February 4, 2020
The initial flights have departed China for Travis Air Force Base with approximately 350 passengers on board. One of the aircraft will refuel at Travis and continue on to Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. (2 of 3)
— U.S. Northern Command (@USNorthernCmd) February 5, 2020
As previously announced, these individuals will be subject to a CDC managed 14-day quarantine. DOD will work closely with our interagency partners and continue to provide support to the situation as requested." (3 of 3)
— U.S. Northern Command (@USNorthernCmd) February 5, 2020
— KTVU (@KTVU) February 1, 2020
The installations selected by the Defense Department are the 168th Regiment, Regional Training Institute, Fort Carson, Colorado; Travis Air Force Base, California; Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. https://t.co/wlngfSL6S5
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) February 1, 2020
CDC does not currently recommend the use of facemasks to help prevent novel #coronavirus. #2019nCoV is not spreading in communities in the US. Take everyday preventive actions to help slow the spread of respiratory illness. https://t.co/uArGZTrH5L pic.twitter.com/EZR5VZwK45
— CDC (@CDCgov) February 4, 2020
On January 23, the State Department issued a “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution” Travel Advisory for China, which includes a “Level 4: Do not travel to Hubei province, China due to novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China.” The Travel Advisory also notes that “on January 23, 2020, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Hubei province.”
On January 26, the State Department announced that it is making arrangements to evacuate personnel from the US Consulate General in Wuhan to San Francisco, CA on Tuesday, January 28. There will be a single flight with limited seating capacity on a reimbursable basis for U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens interested are advised to contact BeijingACS@state.gov with passport details. The announcement also states that “… if there is insufficient ability to transport everyone who expresses interest, priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus.”
U.S. Mission China is one of the largest operations in the world. It includes the embassy in Beijing and consulates general in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Wuhan. We understand that Consulate General Wuhan was expected to open for American citizen services and nonimmigrant visa services in 2018 but its website currently says:
The U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan is not yet open for consular services. Our new office is currently under construction. Construction is scheduled for completion in 2020.
OIG inspection of US Mission China notes that as of May 2017, the mission had representatives from 33 U.S. Government agencies and an authorized staff of 729 U.S. direct-hire employees and 168 American locally hired employees and 1,807 non-American locally employed (LE) staff members.
We’re not sure at this time how many direct-hire U.S. employee and family members are located in Wuhan or how many emergency staffers would be left at post. USCG Wuhan website notes that there is a consul general and his wife, a public affairs officer (family?) and a Department of Commerce’s commercial service office (officer?) at post. We will update this when we know more.
The travel advisory issued last Thursday indicate that there was an “ordered departure” issued for non-emergency personnel and their family members. The Health Alert issued by Consular Affairs on Sunday says that the State Department is evacuating its personnel stationed in Wuhan; we’re not sure if that means all its personnel or just the non-emergency personnel and family members. There is no notice at this time that USCG Wuhan is suspending operation or on temporary closure.
#China: US Citizens w/ valid passports who are interested in the flight from Wuhan to San Francisco on Jan. 28 should contact BeijingACS@state.gov. Capacity is extremely limited; priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus. https://t.co/C9tps5yEZj (2/2)
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) January 26, 2020
- State Dept Issues Travel Alert on Ebola-Related Screening and Travel Restrictions in West Africa Aug 2014
- State Dept Awards $4.9 Million Contract to Phoenix Air for Air Ambulance Evacuation #Ebola Sept 2014
- Poor MidLevel Official Writes #Ebola Memo That Never Went Anywhere — Oy! (October 2014)
- CRS: Ebola Outbreak – Quarantine v. Isolation, Travel Restrictions, Select Legal Issues October 2014
Today our Embassy’s flag flies at half mast in honor of the American fire crew killed in yesterday’s tragic C-130 crash. Thank you Australia for your sympathy and solidarity at this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/t5mJQDEgIe
— US Embassy Canberra (@USAembassyinOZ) January 23, 2020
The three Americans who died fighting an Australian bushfire from the air have been identified by their employer: Capt. Ian McBeth, 44, who was piloting the downed plane; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson, age 42; and Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr., 43 https://t.co/7FvJ0HkXjW
— CNN (@CNN) January 24, 2020
The NSW RFS mourns the loss of the three crewmembers, killed in yesterday's Large Air Tanker crash. Our thoughts are with their families, fellow crewmembers and the broader emergency services family that knew and worked with them. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/u894hOC9fS
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 24, 2020
On behalf of the Australian people, I express our deepest condolences on the tragic loss of 3 US firefighters in yesterday's Large Air Tanker crash that occurred while they were fighting the terrible Australian #bushfires.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 23, 2020
— USDA Forest Service (@forestservice) January 16, 2020
— US Embassy Canberra (@USAembassyinOZ) January 15, 2020
Ambassador Harry Harris was originally nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to Australia in February 2018. The nomination was withdrawn by May 2018 and he was nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea the same month. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 28, 2018 by voice vote. He arrived in Seoul in July that year, and made his first public appearance on July 7, 2018.
As far as we could tell, he’s been sporting that mustache since he arrived in Seoul almost two years ago. We did not hear about the mustache in 2018, so it has to be more than the mustache when the bad press started in the later part of 2019. If he was pestering the host country to pay up for the cost of U.S. troops in the country, that could do it. He’s not a career diplomat but he was a career military official. That means whatever he’s doing is blessed by his chain of command in Foggy Bottom. Or by the guy talking loudly on Twitter.
So apparently, the United States originally demanded $5 billion in payment for U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. Now it’s down to slightly under a billion or else. Bloomberg is reporting that the USG will send furlough notices within weeks to the base workers if no deal is made.
U.S. officials have indicated they’ve backed off Trump’s initial demand that President Moon Jae-in’s administration pay about $5 billion a year for U.S. forces stationed there, more than five times the $900 million in a stopgap one-year agreement that expired on Dec. 31.[…]U.S. officials say they are required to give those workers 60 days’ advance notice that their pay might be cut off because the last of the funds under the previous deal is running out.
Watch out. This is the same Administration which shut down the Federal Government for 35 days from December 22, 2018 until January 25, 2019 making it the record holder of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.
US is warning it will send furlough notices within weeks to 9,000 South Korean workers at US bases if South Korea doesn’t reach agreement on Trump’s demand for an increase in what it pays for US troops.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) January 23, 2020
Is it the 'stache? U.S. ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris says he has been harshly criticized in his host country because of his mustache and his Japanese ancestry. Critics in Seoul say it has more to do with a rude and undiplomatic manner. https://t.co/MZvn0g8jnC
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 20, 2020
The story about the moustache of US Amb. Harry Harris is such a great example of how media narratives are shaped by the few that it should be taught in media literacy 101. I’ll explain here. (1/10)
— Yim Hyun-su 임현수 (@hyunsuinseoul) January 19, 2020
Remarks made by U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris are getting backlash from the Blue House and ruling party, laying bare the rift between Seoul and Washington.https://t.co/xCm8lsSDmB
— Korea JoongAng Daily (@JoongAngDaily) January 18, 2020
South Korea’s push to allow for private tourism to North Korea should be discussed with the U.S., says Ambassador Harry Harris https://t.co/PQCdJVFuLi
— Bloomberg (@business) January 16, 2020
U.S. and South Korean negotiators are struggling to reach a deal that matches President Trump’s demand for a substantial increase in Seoul’s security payments https://t.co/tHVBpAdyZX
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) January 7, 2020
Up to 8,700 South Korean employees working for the United States Forces Korea will be impacted, the representative of the workers' union says. They were given a heads-up of possible furloughs as early as last October through this letter. https://t.co/uERfsTtq3Y pic.twitter.com/9Vv0wVGLgc
— Jihye Lee 이지혜 (@TheJihyeLee) January 23, 2020