Senate Confirms the Next US Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, and Six FS Lists

Posted: 2:55 pm PT
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On December 10, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Lakhdhir, Kamala Shirin (June 2016) as the next U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia. She is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, and most recently served as Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Department of State, a position she held since 2011.

2016-12-10 PN1546 Department of State | Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Malaysia.

Earlier, on December 7, the Senate also confirmed the following Foreign Service lists:

2016-12-07 PN1808 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Marva Michelle Butler, and ending Adonis Mariano Matos de Mello, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 15, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1907 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Stephen Donald Mull, and ending Victoria Jane Nuland, which 2 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1908 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Robert L. Adams, and ending Laura Ann Griesmer, which 181 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1909 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Robert Stephen Beecroft, and ending Marie L. Yovanovitch, which 5 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1910 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Tristan J. Allen, and ending William F. Zeman, which 42 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

2016-12-07 PN1911 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Anthony Abba, and ending Michael David Zgoda, which 180 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 29, 2016.

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Reuters: State Department watered down human trafficking report

Posted: 3:45  am EDT
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In the weeks leading up to a critical annual U.S. report on human trafficking that publicly shames the world’s worst offenders, human rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions hadn’t improved in Malaysia and Cuba. And in China, they found, things had grown worse.

The State Department’s senior political staff saw it differently — and they prevailed.

A Reuters examination, based on interviews with more than a dozen sources in Washington and foreign capitals, shows that the government office set up to independently grade global efforts to fight human trafficking was repeatedly overruled by senior American diplomats and pressured into inflating assessments of 14 strategically important countries in this year’s Trafficking in Persons report.

In all, analysts in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons – or J/TIP, as it’s known within the U.S. government — disagreed with U.S. diplomatic bureaus on ratings for 17 countries, the sources said.

The analysts, who are specialists in assessing efforts to combat modern slavery – such as the illegal trade in humans for forced labor or prostitution – won only three of those disputes, the worst ratio in the 15-year history of the unit, according to the sources.

As a result, not only Malaysia, Cuba and China, but countries such as India, Uzbekistan and Mexico, wound up with better grades than the State Department’s human-rights experts wanted to give them, the sources said. (Graphic looking at some of the key decisions here: reut.rs/1gF2Wz5)
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The final decision on disputed rankings this year was made in meetings attended by some of the State Department’s most powerful diplomats, including Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Kerry’s Chief of Staff, Jonathan Finer, according to the sources.

Read in full here.

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Related item:

-07/27/15  Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall on the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report;  Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall; Washington, DC

President Obama Visits Tokyo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Manila — Yabusame, Durian, EDCA, and Lots of Handshakes

— Domani Spero

President Obama is traveling to Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines from April 22 to April 29. Below are some photos from his stops:

Japan

The US Embassy Tokyo folks also got a meet and greet with President Obama. We are pleased to hear that no one was strangled with the lanyard of some Top Secret Clearance badge despite all that standing around waiting to see POTUS.  You all did not get up at 3 a.m., did you?

Republic of Korea

Malaysia

Philippines

Shortly before President Obama arrived in Manila, the United States and the Philippines signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The agreement is designed to promote among other things, capacity building towards Philippine Army modernization, maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

For more of that, see links below:

President Barack Obama stretches to shake the hand of a young girl held aloft during a U.S. Embassy meet and greet at the Sofitel Hotel in Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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US Embassy Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines Flight #MH370, USS Pinckney to Join Search Efforts

– Domani Spero

On March 8, Malaysia Airlines released a statement that it is still unable to establish any contact or determine the whereabouts of flight MH370. Other details below:

  • Subang ATC had lost contact with the aircraft at 2.40am. The last known position of MH370 before it disappeared off the radar was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).
  • MH370 is a Boeing 777-200 aircraft on a code share with China Southern Airlines. It departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 am today for Beijing. The aircraft was scheduled to land at Beijing International Airport at 6.30am local Beijing time. The flight had a total number of 227 passengers and 12 crew members. The passengers were from 14 different countries, most of whom are from China.
  • An international search and rescue mission was mobilized this morning. At this stage, our search and rescue teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have failed to find evidence of any wreckage.
  • For the passenger manifest of MH370, click here.

The U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur released the following statement regarding the missing plane. (full statement here):

The U.S. Embassy is closely following the developments regarding Malaysia Airlines flight #MH370. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the loved ones of those on board the Malaysia Airlines flight.

At this time, we can confirm that three U.S. citizens were on board.  We are in contact with the individuals’ families.  Out of respect for them, we are not providing additional information at this time. We are working to assess whether additional U.S. citizens may have been on board the flight.
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Malaysia Airlines has established dedicated phone numbers for family members and friends of passengers to contact the airline directly for information.  Family and friends should contact the airline at +603 8787 126 or +603 87871629.  The airline is also providing updates to the general public on its website, http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/hq/en.html.

US Embassy KL also announced that USS Pinckney has been sent to assist in the search efforts:

The United States Navy Seventh Fleets is sending the USS Pinckney, along with a P-3C aircraft to assist in search efforts. The USS Pinckney (DDG 91), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, is en route to the southern coast of Vietnam to aid in the search efforts.  The ship could be in vicinity of the missing jet within 24 hours and carries two MH-60R helicopters which can be equipped for search and rescue.  In addition, A P-3C Orion aircraft will also depart shortly from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan bringing long-range search, radar and communications capabilities to the efforts.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91) transits San Diego Bay. Pinckney helps provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas, and humanitarian/disaster response within U.S. 3rd Fleet's 50-million square mile area of responsibility in the eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Todd C. Behrman/Released)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91) transits San Diego Bay. Pinckney helps provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas, and humanitarian/disaster response within U.S. 3rd Fleet’s 50-million square mile area of responsibility in the eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Todd C. Behrman/Released)

According to the U.S. Navy, USS Pinckney was conducting training and maritime security operations in international waters of the South China Sea.

Also, U.S. officials are reportedly investigating terrorism concerns after two people listed as passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines jet turned out not to be on the plane and had reported their passports stolen in Thailand.

The passports stolen were from nationals of Italy and Austria; both countries are in the U.S. visa waiver program.

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Officially In: Joseph Y. Yun – From EAP to Malaysia

 By Domani Spero

On June 12, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Joseph Y. Yun as the next Ambassador to Malaysia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Joseph Y. Yun, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  Prior to this, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2010 to 2011.  From 2009 to 2010, he was Director of the Office of Maritime Southeast Asia.  Since joining the Foreign Service in 1985, Mr. Yun has served overseas in Korea, Thailand, France, Indonesia and Hong Kong.  Before joining the Foreign Service, he was an economist for Data Resources, Inc. in Massachusetts.

Mr. Yun received a B.S. from the Cardiff University and an M.S. and M.Phil from the London School of Economics.

Joseph Y. Yun (screengrab from YouTube)

Joseph Y. Yun
(screengrab from YouTube)

If confirmed, Mr. Yun would succeed career diplomat, Paul W. Jones who was appointed chief of mission to Kuala Lumpur in 2010. Of the 19 ambassadors appointed to Malaysia since 1960, only one, Barbara Mae Watson (1980-1981) had been a political appointee. (Note: That’s the same Barbara Watson who was twice appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs. The State Department’s Award for Consular Excellence is also named after her).

Mr. Yun is scheduled to have his confirmation hearing at the SFRC on Tuesday, July 23 at 9 am.  Video and written testimony will be posted here when available.

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Related item:
June 12, 2013  President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts