ROK Awards Ex-Ambassador Harry Harris the Gwanghwa Medal of Diplomatic Merit

 

 

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Biden Issues Order For Safe Haven of Hong Kong Residents in the United States For 18 Months

 

 

A recent Canadian Advisory notes that on August 1, 2021, the Immigration (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 in Hong Kong came into force.

Hong Kong authorities may prevent specific individuals from leaving the territory. In the absence of clarifying legislation, these new powers may relate to investigations into an individual, their family or an employer, and criminal and civil matters.

You may not be aware that you are the subject of movement restrictions until you try to leave Hong Kong. It may be difficult to obtain information on movement restrictions from local authorities.

On August 5, the State Department also announced the “safe haven” for Hong Kongers through the Deferred Enforced Departure for Hong Kong residents in the United States.

At the end of June 2020, the People’s Republic of China imposed the sweeping National Security Law on Hong Kong, further undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy. Over the course of this crackdown, Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have arbitrarily delayed scheduled elections, disqualified lawmakers, undermined press freedom, and arrested more than 10,000 people. The PRC has fundamentally altered the bedrock of Hong Kong’s institutions and suppressed freedoms of Hong Kongers. Despite widespread demonstrations, which brought millions together to call for greater freedom, Hong Kong’s promise of democracy has dimmed. Today, President Biden directed Deferred Enforced Departure for Hong Kong residents in the United States for 18 months, joining our partners and allies in offering safe haven should residents fear returning to Hong Kong.

In the face of PRC and Hong Kong authorities’ attempts to stifle democratic aspirations, we will take action. We will continue to stand up for the human rights and freedoms guaranteed to people in Hong Kong by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. Today we send a clear message that the United States resolutely stands with people in Hong Kong.

See White House memorandum.

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@StateDept Designates WHA/EX Christopher Del Corso as Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy Seoul

 

Christopher Del Corso, a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister Counselor has assumed his current position as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at U.S. Embassy Seoul on July 16, 2021. Prior to this posting, Mr. Del Corso served in Washington, DC as the Executive Director for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, and before that, he was the Minister Counselor for Management Affairs and acting Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Seoul.
Mr. Del Corso succeeds SFSO Rob Rapson who was Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at U.S. Embassy Seoul since January 20, 2021 (Rapson is retiring after over three decades in the Foreign Service).  Immediately prior to being A/CDA, Mr. Rapson served as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Seoul, 2018-2021 and was Political Minister Counselor and acting Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Tokyo, 2015-2018.
Also on July 16, Seoul’s Consul General Linda E. Daetwyler was designated as Acting Deputy Chief of Mission.

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Philippine President Duterte Retracts Kill Order For Visiting Forces Agreement With the United States #VFA

 

In February 2020, the Philippines sent the United States  a Notice of Military-Pact Termination.  On July 29th, during Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit in Manila, the Philippine Defense Secretary tweeted that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is “in full force again after Secretary Austin’s meeting with President Duterte. No challenge is insurmountable between longstanding allies that are committed to attaining shared goals of regional peace and stability.”

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US Mission Japan: SFSO Raymond Greene Assumed Duties as Chargé d’Affaires a.i

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. DS

 

On July 17, SFSO Raymond Greene assumed duties as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy Tokyo. A brief bio below via US Mission Japan:

Raymond Greene assumed duties as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim, U.S. Embassy Tokyo on July 17, 2021. Prior to this assignment, he was the Deputy Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). Mr. Greene is a member of the State Department’s Senior Foreign Service and has spent his entire 25-year career advancing U.S. diplomatic, economic, and security engagement with the Indo-Pacific region. In Washington, Mr. Greene was Director for Japan and East Asian Economic Affairs at National Security Council and Director of the Office of Economic Policy in the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. In the latter capacity, Mr. Greene was elected as Chairman of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum’s Economic Committee.

Overseas, Mr. Greene served as U.S. Consul General in Chengdu, China and Okinawa, Japan. Earlier assignments included Chief of the Political-Military Affairs Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Deputy Chief of the Political Section at AIT Taipei, and as a political officer in Tokyo and Manila. Mr. Greene was the first Baker-Kato Diplomatic Exchange Fellow at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo. He also was assigned as a State Department Faculty Advisor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Greene holds a B.A. (Government/Japanese) and M.P.M. (International Security and Economic Policy) from the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the recipient of the Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, the Ryozo Kato Award for Advancing the U.S.-Japan Alliance, the Friendship Medal of Diplomacy (Taiwan), and several State Department Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards. Before joining the State Department, Mr. Greene was a researcher at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC and spent a year in Yokohama on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program. Mr. Greene speaks Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Mr. Greene is married to the former Yawen Ko.

According to Politico, Rahm Emanuel, the former congressman, White House chief of staff, political adviser, commentator, author, “sender of revenge fish and controversial two-time Chicago mayor is poised” to be President Biden’s pick as ambassador to Tokyo. A White House official cautioned in late June that, “no one is final until they’re announced.”

 

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@StateDept Designates Ambassador Atul Keshap as Chargé d’Affaires For US Mission India

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On June 29, 2021, the State Department announced the designation of Ambassador Atul Keshap as CDA for US Mission India:

Ambassador Atul Keshap, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, will be departing for New Delhi to serve as Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim, following the retirement of Ambassador Daniel Smith. Ambassador Keshap will bring a wealth of experience to the role, having served previously at U.S. Embassy New Delhi and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia. He most recently served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and as the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Ambassador Keshap’s appointment will reinforce the close U.S. partnership with the Government and people of India, demonstrated by our collaboration to overcome global challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 30 this year, Ambassador Dan Smith who was then FSI Director  was appointed CDA for US Mission India (Ambassador Daniel Smith to be Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim at US Mission India). Apparently, he has now retired. There are rumors floating around that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti to set to be named  as Biden’s pick for his ambassador to India, but to-date no official announcement has been made. Unless an announcement, and confirmation hearing happens in the next four weeks, it is likely that whoever is the nominee will be stuck in the system while the Senate goes on its August break.
Note that the tentative Senate schedule indicates the recess commencing on August 7.  The Senate will not be back in session until September 13, and then after that, just some 48 more work days before 2021 ends.

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Snapshot: Diplomatic Spouses Employment by Regional Bureau (2017-2020)

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Via state.gov/FLO

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More About the Separate Quarantine at US Mission China

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Yesterday, we posted: FS family members 14 and up are forcibly quarantined separately from their families in China?  As often the case when we post questions in this blog, we get a reaction. Below is what we learned from a correspondent who is currently serving in China and who has “happily extended” their tour there. Our correspondent gave a different perspective about the quarantine process upon arrival in China and life there during the pandemic. He/She also answered additional questions we have.
Quarantine with children
— The quarantine rules, including those affecting children have been known by the entire mission and the EAP bureau a year ago.
— If there are two parents, they decide who takes what kid during quarantine. For single parents, you take all the kids and be in the same room; the bed is reportedly extra large king. In the case of illness concerning a baby or a young child, the PRC would allow one parent to stay at the hospital under the negotiated agreement. This was not the case at the beginning; apparently, there was a three month old baby of French diplomats who stayed alone in the hospital although reportedly with “constant monitoring.”
— When ill, mission employees go to two hospitals where the doctors are 20% Western and the Chinese doctors have been educated in the US, UK, or Australia.
— Diplomats are lodged at franchise hotel in Shanghai and Guangzhou with room sizes similar to a that of a regular Marriott room with about 420 sqft of space.
— The hotel offers at least Chinese, Muslim, Western menus that are “quite cheap.” There are additional choices from the VIP menu with a higher price but still within the authorized per diem.
— Last year, people could order online but this privilege was rescinded for fresh food because it was apparently sprayed with disinfectant upon arrival, so people could only order closed/canned foods. There is second hand account attributed to folks who recently concluded their quarantine that people were able to order salads, cheese, etc. again this year.
— Diplomats are allowed to do part of their quarantine at home, unlike other people (for example, business people). We were informed that EAP/Mission negotiated this. Also in late December, China started requiring a second test (blood) from an approved lab in a city with direct flights to China. Despite these precautions, there are reportedly continuing imported cases from Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Beijing and now Shanghai reportedly require a third week of quarantine with relaxed protocol like a hotel where the families can be together. For our diplomats, the negotiated agreement is that this third week can be done at home.
— The correspondent pointed out that the assignment in China requires an investment of at least a year of language but signing up for the Foreign Service requires acceptance of assignments that include hardships.
— We understand that people can curtail their assignments as some employees did last summer; they never went back after the evacuation.
We asked about the rationale for the cut-off age; 12 year olds are allowed to stay with parents but 14 year olds must quarantine separately?
Our correspondent said that previously, this was kids who are 15 and above. Now the requirement to quarantine separately is 14 years and above. Our correspondent did not have a clear answer but points at the likelihood that local authorities have probably determined that this is the age when kids are infected or transmitting like adults.
Medevac Flights
Our correspondent confirmed that the Department used charter flights to transport people back to Mission China last year. There were standby flights to return anyone who tested positive back to the U.S. “Happened once.” We learned that the Department stopped the charters in September/October when majority of the staff had returned or arrived PCS. Incoming staff to China used commercial flights thereafter.
Communication
Our correspondent said EAP and Mission China were  “almost too communicative”.  Our correspondent pointed out that in June-August, China folks received three emails per week to update them “of the progress.”  They apparently also had a FAQs with over 30 pages. A separate source notes that while the transfer season is always busy,  there is a special China packet, as well as town halls that people should read/tune in.
Isolation
Our correspondent said that “most kids 14-18 were actually happy” to be able to be on their cellphone and other social media without their parents on their back. “With Skype or WeChat you can have video calls if you wish, you are not isolated.”
Life During a Pandemic
Our correspondent explained that Beijing was never in lockdown, the embassy never closed its doors, that people continued to go to work, restaurants remained open, etc.  He/She asks, “Is 14 days a hard price to pay for a regular life?”  He/She writes, “It is much better than over a year of lockdowns, curfews, and other restrictions and worrying to catch the virus.”
At the end of the day, the sentiment expressed by our correspondent is — we are all extremely happy that China has strict rules because it meant a regular life (with a mask) for all Posts (except Wuhan).
One anecdotal evidence from a recently returned employee from China expressed a similar sentiment, that the quarantine process “sucked” but when it was done, they were able to move around and live a “more normal” daily life – although with masks.
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FS family members 14 and up are forcibly quarantined separately from their families in China?

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Below from Sender A:
State is forcing teenage EFMs 14 and up to forcibly quarantine separately from their families in China. Imagine PCS’ing to a new post and being told the 14 year old child had to quarantine for two weeks alone in a hotel room separated from their parents. How did L sign off on this? This is a legal nightmare waiting to unfold. What 14 year old should be locked alone in a room for two weeks and have all their food brought to them…. no food delivery allowed. What if the child struggles from 14 days of isolation?

We’ve learned previously from a separate source that the Department is requiring employees to fulfill local quarantine rules on arrival in a country, as they apply to diplomats. That’s expected. It would not want the perception of skirting local rules amidst a global pandemic. Back in March, when Mainland China news alleged that the US staffers claimed diplomatic immunity to avoid quarantine in Hong Kong, the State Department pushed back and called it “absolutely false.”
A former ambassador pointed out that Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that “Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities, it is the duty of all persons enjoying such privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State.” The former official noted that under the normal course of events, an undertaking to quarantine within the embassy premises would normally be agreeable to the local authorities.
We understand that some countries have even waived them for diplomats or allowed diplomats to do it at their embassy quarters. We’re talking about quarantine at entry as opposed to an isolation required due to illness.  But not China. One source called its entry requirements, the “most onerous.” The quarantine is reportedly for all “regardless of test status.”  We were informed that this involves “something like 14 days in a hotel in the arrival city and then a stay at home for another 7 days in your destination city, with multiple tests along the way.”
The EAP bureau and Mission China were supposedly communicating to FS people relocating to China what the requirements are and what they should expect. The rules are “rigid and exacting” we were told.  We understand that a particularly egregious requirement is that couples have to quarantine separately. We were, however, told that the United States had supposedly “received earlier assurances” from the Chinese that in situation where kids are involved, at least one parent would be able to stay with the children.
So, if teens are now being quarantined alone, and separate from the parent/parents — what happened?
  • 1) Is this a case of arbitrary enforcement of local laws?
  • 2) If they’re separating 14 year olds from their parents for the quarantine, why is 14 the magic number?
  • 3) So the host country just now decided not to follow through with its prior assurances, why?
  • 4) Was this so unexpected EAP and Mission China did not get a chance to forewarn incoming FS families?
  • 5) Did State/L sign off on this? If yes, why?If not, what is it going to do about it – just let families bear it?
  • 6) USG and China must have exchanged Diplomatic Notes, what’s in it?
Excerpt from US Mission China’s COVID-19 Information updated on April 20, 2021:

All travelers, including U.S. citizens who enter China, are screened upon arrival and subject to a minimum 14-day quarantine. While restrictions around domestic travel within China have eased, local quarantine requirements can vary significantly between cities, and regulations can change very quickly. All international arrivals should be prepared to complete quarantine at a government-selected facility or hotel at their own expense, with no control over the amenities, even if they maintain a residence in China. Cities and provinces within China may also require quarantine for domestic travelers, regardless of nationality.

The US Consulate General in Hong Kong has an update dated May 10:

Starting May 12, 2012, fully vaccinated individuals will be able to reduce their quarantine by 7 days. Fully vaccinated travelers from the United States will complete 14 days in a designated quarantine hotel and then self-monitor the remaining 7 days. For full information about reduced quarantine, please see the Hong Kong government’s press release.

When we previously blogged about quarantine, the former ambassador also pointed out that our relations with the Chinese “have involved scapegoating them for their failure instantly to recognize and act to control the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, coupled with all sorts of conspiracy theories and uncouth accusations by our former secretary of state and others.  So, it would not be surprising that they would not cut us much slack.”
What else is going on between US and China the last couple of months?
On April 8, 2021, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added seven Chinese supercomputing entities to the Entity List for conducting activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.
On May 10, the SFRC approved S. 1169 Strategic Competition Act of 2021 signaling bipartisan support in “laying out a strategic approach towards Beijing – and assuring that the United States is positioned to compete with China across all dimensions of national and international power for decades to come”.

 

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Havana Syndrome Questions @StateDept Refuses to Answer

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The questions below were sent to the State Department on March 16, 2021 for Ambassador Pamela Spratlen, the newly designated  Senior Advisor to the Havana Syndrome Task Force (officially called  the Health Incident Response Task Force (HIRTF) .  She was appointed with direct reporting responsibility to the Department’s senior leadership. The State Department’s media arm confirmed receipt of these questions on March 17.
To-date, the State Department has not responded to these questions despite our follow-up. It looks like the PA leadership has fed our questions to their email-chewing doggo. Poor bow wow!!! PA folks still sore about this, hey? Inside @StateDept: Leaked Cable Provides Guidance For ‘America First’ Cost Savings Initiatives. Oh, dear!
Anyways. If you’re the unofficial kind and have some answers to these questions, please send your howlers here or via Twitter and we’ll get back to you. We’ll write as many follow-up posts as needed.

 

Task Force: 

—1. The State Department spokesperson said that there is an individual on the Health Incident Response Task Force (HIRTF) who is responsible solely for engaging with those who may have been victims of these incidents. The individual was not publicly named. I understand that the 41 recognized victims apparently also have no idea who this individual is or who are the members of the task force. Shouldn’t the State Department be transparent and name all the people on the task force? How do potential victims, (including spouses and foreign nationals) contact the individual tasked with engaging with them?
—2. The ARB Cuba report clearly demonstrates the botched response to these incidents in Havana. It was also an interim report. In addition, we have received allegations that the Department’s response to the incidents in China was much worse. Are there plans to convene an ARB for China? Is there a plan to expand the time frame and places of possible incidents covered in this investigation? We are aware of at least one case that occurred much earlier than December 2016. How many reported cases of mystery illness were excluded by State? With so many varied symptoms, and many unknowns, is it fair to rule out anyone without the full constellation of symptoms? How did the State Department determine that Patient Zero, widely reported to have been injured in December 2016, is really Patient Zero and not Patient Two, or Patient 10 or Patient 20? 
—3. What is the status of the implementation of the ARB Cuba recommendations?
—4. Can you confirm that the mystery illness has been reported domestically (WH staffer in Arlington, a couple at UPENN)?
—5. There were employee/s who suffered grievous treatment in the aftermath of these incidents (e.g. alleged retaliation, uncovered medical expenses). Is Amb Spratlen willing to meet with employees suffering from  medical and bureaucratic chaos brought about by these incidents?

 

National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Report:

—6. I recognized that there is new leadership at State but the HIRTF has been there since 2018. Why did State sit on the NAS report of August 2020 and only released it in December 2020? It is an unclassified report, so national security concerns should not have been an issue.
—7. Has the State Department accepted that the illness is due to microwave exposure? If so, how are employees protected from the next attacks? Why hasn’t State fully implemented the recommendations in the NAS report?

Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and Bureau of Medical Services (MED)

—8. Why is Diplomatic Security still acting (and conducting searches in apartments) as if the cause could be toxic chemicals when NAS ruled out chemical exposure as a cause and pointed to the reported signs, symptoms and observations as consistent with the effects of directed, pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy?
—9. Why is Diplomatic Security still conducting briefings that “only one person was found by State/MED to be affected in China” when USG has officially diagnosed 15?
—10. How many employees who complained of unexplained illness to MED or DS were told to undergo psych evaluations or told to “get their act together” by the bureaus tasked with protecting their welfare? How many mystery illness were reported globally by employees, family members and local employees before State took them seriously?

 

3 FAM 3660 Implementation

—11. 3 FAM 3660 has been in the Foreign Affairs Manual since May 2020 but we’ve heard reports that State is blocking implementation of the prescribed benefits for employees from other agencies. Can you discuss where the responsibility for adjudicating cases under the provisions of 3 FAM 3660 falls? What is the processing time for requests made under these regulations for State and non-State employees? 
—12. There are numerous employees and family members as you know who still have symptoms but because they are not in the group of 41, they do not qualify for the 3 FAM 3660 provisions and therefore are on their own.  What are the treatment options for the hundreds of employees/family members who were medevaced but were not enrolled like the 41 cases in the UPenn study and designated by Department of Labor to get workers compensation benefits?
—13. How many foreign nationals connected with USG missions/residences where the attacks occurred reported similar symptoms as USG American employees and family members? What support and treatment options were available to them? 
—14. As you know, under 3 FAM 3660, a covered employee is an employee of the Department of State who, on or after January 1, 2016, becomes injured by reason of a qualifying injury and was assigned to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country as designated by the Secretary of State. What other countries have been designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666 to-date?  
—15. Members of the 41 officially diagnosed say State has caused irreparable harm with a “see no evil” response and just wants the problem to go away. Do you recognize the harm of State’s botched past response and lack of transparency?
—16. A” being the highest and “F” being failing, how would you grade the previous State Department leadership’s response to the health incidents?

Submitted Questions:

 –17.  Why not expand the mandate of Ambassador Spratlen to include instances of previous microwave attacks, since those episodes were handled so badly by the State Department? Here is a little background: https://shoeone.blogspot.com/2013/09/moscow-microwaves.html

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