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— Last year, people could order online but this privilege was rescinded for fresh food because it was apparently sprayed with disinfectant upon arrival, so people could only order closed/canned foods.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”.

 

Related posts:

 

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Biden Announces Nominations of Nine Ambassadors to Countries in Africa, East Asia, Middle East/North African Region

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On April 15, 2021, President Biden announced his intent to nominate nine career members of the Senior Foreign Service as ambassadors to countries in Africa, East Asia, and in the Middle East/North Africa region:
  • Larry Edward André, Jr. – Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Somalia
  • Maria E. Brewer – Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho
  • Christopher John Lamora – Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon
  • Tulinabo S. Mushingi – Ambassador to the Republic of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome & Principe
  • Michael Raynor – Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau
  • Eugene S. Young – Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo

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  • Marc Evans Knapper – Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

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  • Elizabeth Moore Aubin – Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
  • Steven C. Bondy – Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain

State/AF – AFRICA

Larry Edward André, Jr., Nominee for Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Somalia

Larry André, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is the United States Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at U.S. Embassy Juba, South Sudan.  He is a former Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.  He has served as Director of the Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, and as Deputy Executive Director  in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, and was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  André earned an MBA from Arizona State University/American Graduate School of International Management and a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College.  He is the recipient of numerous State Department Awards, including the Director General Award for Reporting, and was recently recognized by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the Joint Distinguished Civilian Award.  He speaks French fluently.

Maria E. Brewer, Nominee for Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho

Maria E. Brewer, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, recently served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Sierra Leone.  Prior to that, Brewer served as the Deputy Director in the Office of Career Development and Assignments for the State Department; as the Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé of the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria; and as the leader of the management team at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.   Earlier in her career, Brewer’s assignments include service as the Management Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka and Management Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai, India.  She also was Deputy Executive Director and Supervisory Post Management Officer in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs; Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Management; and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration.  She earned a B.A. from Valparaiso University and an M.S. from the National Defense University, Industrial College of the Armed Forces.  She speaks Spanish, Krio and Hindi.

Christopher John Lamora, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon

Christopher Lamora, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, is the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana. He was previously the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Africa and African Security Affairs in the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department and he also served as Director of the Office of Central African Affairs, Deputy Director of the Bureau’s Office of Economic and Regional Affairs, and desk officer for the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He served overseas at the U.S. embassies in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Greece and the Central African Republic, and the U.S. Consulate General in Douala, Cameroon. Lamora earned a B.S. at Georgetown University and speaks French, Spanish, and Modern Greek.

Tulinabo S. Mushingi, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome & Principe

Tulinabo Mushingi, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, is currently U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.  Mushingi also served previously as the U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso and as the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Mushingi was the Deputy Executive Secretary and Executive Director in Executive Office of the Secretary in the Department of State.  Earlier in his career, Mushingi served at the U.S. Embassy Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca, Morocco; and the U.S. Embassies in Mozambique and Malaysia as well as in various assignments at the State Department in Washington, D.C.  Mushingi earned a Ph.D. from Georgetown University, an M.A. from Howard University, and both “Graduat and Licence” degrees from the Higher Institute of Education in Bukavu, Congo.  He is a recipient of the Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy.  He speaks Portuguese, French, and Swahili.

Michael Raynor, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau

Michael Raynor is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who most recently served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia.  Earlier, he held positions as the Assistant Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan and the U.S. Ambassador to Benin.  Raynor also was the Director of the Office of Career Development and Assignments in the Bureau of Global Talent Management and the Executive Director in the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department.  Raynor’s earlier experience includes service at the U.S. Embassies in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Guinea and Djibouti.  He earned his B.A. from Lafayette College and a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University.  He is the recipient of the State Department’s Leamon R. Hunt Award for Management Excellence.  He speaks fluent French.

Eugene S. Young, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo

Eugene Young is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who currently serves as the Economic Counselor of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel.  Previously,  Young was the Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria; the Consul and Senior Civilian Representative of the U.S. Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan; and the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  Among his other assignments,  Young served as the Economic Counselor of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, the Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General in Durban, South Africa, and as a Special Assistant in the Office of the Deputy Secretary of State.   Young earned his B.A. degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and an M.A. degree from The George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.  His foreign languages are German, French, Slovene, Slovak, and Serbo-Croatian.

State/EAP – EAST ASIA PACIFIC

Marc Evans Knapper, Nominee for Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Marc Evans Knapper, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Japan and Korea in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State.  Before assuming that position, Knapper was the Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea and, prior to that, was the Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission.  Earlier, Knapper was Director of the State Department’s Office of India Affairs and Director of the State Department’s Office of Japanese Affairs.  His other assignments include leadership positions in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.  Knapper earned his B.A. from Princeton University and his M.A. from the Army War College.  He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the State Department’s Linguist of the Year Award, and a Presidential Rank Award.  He speaks Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.

State/NEA – Middle East and North Africa

Elizabeth Moore Aubin, Nominee for Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria

Elizabeth Moore Aubin, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is the Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, in the Department of State.  Other senior leadership roles held by Aubin during her three decades of service are Executive Director of the Joint Executive Office of the Bureaus of Near Eastern Affairs and South and Central Asian Affairs, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, Canada; Executive Director of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Algiers, Algeria.  Aubin earned her B.A. degree from Barnard College of Columbia University and did graduate work at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.  She speaks French and Italian.

Steven C. Bondy, Nominee for Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain

Steven C. Bondy, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is a Senior Advisor in the Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.  In 2017-2020 he was Charge d’Affaires a.i. and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  He previously served as the Assistant Chief of Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan and as the Foreign Policy Advisor to the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command.  Mr. Bondy earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Delaware.  The recipient of numerous U.S. government awards, including a Presidential Rank Award, he speaks Arabic, French, Farsi, Turkish and Spanish.

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@StateDept Appoints Ambassador Atul Keshap as EAP’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary

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The principal officers of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs are listed here.

Via state.gov:

Ambassador Atul Keshap is a career senior Foreign Service Officer currently serving as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Across his 25 year career as an American diplomat, Ambassador Keshap has served at postings in India, Morocco, and Guinea, and as United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives.  He has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, as U.S. Senior Official for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, and as an Office Director in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
Ambassador Keshap has negotiated or advanced bilateral and multilateral initiatives at senior levels with counterparts from the European Union, United Nations, Japan, United Kingdom, France, India, Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Mexico, Russia, China, Indonesia, Egypt, Morocco, and several other countries in Africa, the Arab world, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Prior to his current assignment, Ambassador Keshap served at the Department of Defense as the National Defense University’s Vice Chancellor for the College of International Security Affairs.  Earlier in his career, he served as Director for North Africa and Middle East regional affairs on the National Security Council staff in the Executive Office of the President of the United States.
In 2018, Ambassador Keshap received one of the State Department’s highest honors, the Distinguished Honor Award, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in recognition of his leadership in advancing U.S. interests in the Indian Ocean region.  He is also the recipient of numerous individual Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards.

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Trump to Nominate Retired Air Force General David Stilwell to be Asst Secretary For East Asian & Pacific Affairs

On October 17, the WH announced the President’s intent to nominate Air Force veteran David Stilwell to be the next Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). The WH released the following brief bio:

David Stilwell of Hawaii, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State.

Mr. Stilwell is an Air Force veteran with more than 35 years of experience as a pilot, commander, and Korean linguist. He retired in 2015 with the rank of Brigadier General. Currently, Mr. Stilwell is the Director of the China Strategic Focus Group at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the East West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Previously, he served as Staff Officer for Joint Staff Plans and Policy (Asia) at the Pentagon and Defense Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Mr. Stillwell earned his B.S. from the U.S. Air Force Academy, and M.A. degrees from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, U.S. Air Command and Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. He is the recipient of the Department of Defense Superior Service Award and speaks Korean, Chinese, and limited Japanese.

In December 2017, WH nominated career diplomat Susan Thorton to be A/S for EAP (see Career Diplomat Susan A. Thornton to be Asst Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP)). Her nomination became one more casualty of politics, particularly following the departure of former Secretary Tillerson. In July this year, she announced her retirement after a 27-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service (see Former State Department diplomat settles on historic Maine farm).

If confirmed, General Stilwell would succeed Daniel R. Russel who served from 2013 to 2017. Other prior appointees to this position include Winston Lord (1993–1997); Paul D. Wolfowitz (1982–1986); Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (1977–1981); William Averell Harriman (1961–1963), and David Dean Rusk (1950–1951) to name a few.

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Career Diplomat Susan A. Thornton to be Asst Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP)

Posted: 2:31 am ET

 

On December 19, the WH release a statement of the nominations it sent to the Senate. The list includes the names of retired military officer Andrea L. Thompson to be Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (T) whose nomination was  announced on December 13, and of senior career diplomat Susan A. Thornton to be the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). As of this writing, and we’ve looked hard, the statement on the nominations forwarded to the Senate appears to be the only one that came out of the WH reflecting Ms. Thornton’s nomination. Maybe the official announcement will come later. Or maybe not.

According to BuzzFeed’s report, Alex Wong, the former foreign policy adviser to Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, is also poised to join the Department as a deputy assistant secretary in the EAP Bureau, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.

Below is Ms. Thornton’s official bio via state.gov:

Susan Thornton assumed responsibility as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in February 2016, after serving for a year and a half as Deputy Assistant Secretary. A career-member of the United States Foreign Service, Ms. Thornton joined the State Department in 1991 and has spent the last twenty years working on U.S. policy in Eurasia, focused on the countries of the former Soviet Union and East Asia.

As Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Ms. Thornton is responsible for policy related to China, Mongolia, and Taiwan.

Previous Foreign Service assignments include Deputy Chief of Mission to the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan, Deputy Director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs at the State Department in Washington, Economic Unit Chief in the Office of Korean Affairs, and overseas postings in Beijing, Chengdu, Yerevan and Almaty.

Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Ms. Thornton worked at the Foreign Policy Institute in Washington, DC, where she researched and wrote about Soviet bureaucratic politics and contemporary Russia. She speaks Russian and Mandarin Chinese.

A quick summary of this position via history.state.gov:

The Department of State established the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs in 1949, after the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of Government (Hoover Commission) recommended that certain offices be upgraded to bureau level and after Congress increased the number of Assistant Secretaries of State from six to ten (May 26, 1949; P.L. 81-73; 63 Stat. 111). On Nov 1, 1966, the Department by administrative action changed the incumbent’s designation to Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. The Division of Far Eastern Affairs, established in 1908, was the first geographical division to be established in the Department of State.

If confirmed, Ms. Thornton would succeed Daniel R. Russel who served from 2013 to 2017. Other prior appointees to this position include Winston Lord (1993–1997); Paul D. Wolfowitz (1982–1986); Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (1977–1981); William Averell Harriman (1961–1963), and David Dean Rusk (1950–1951) to name a few.

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Lonesome Rex to Make Inaugural Trip to Asia Without His Traveling Press?

Posted: 2:37 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’]

 

Secretary Tillerson knew when he took this job that he would be the face and the voice of America to the world. That includes talking to the press, and more importantly answering questions from the press corps. We get that he’s new at this but he better get it together fast; he’s now one of our most prominent public servants, and he cannot continue to evade the press and avoid answering questions without running afoul of one of his three core principles.

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell  has now been escorted twice out of a State Department presser. Reporters were also previously escorted out during the Lavrov-Tillerson meeting in Germany. We betcha when Secretary Tillerson starts talking to the press, reporters would not have to shout their questions during every 30-second photo-op. And now, we’re hearing that Secretary Tillerson is making his inaugural trip to Asia next week. He will be traveling with the new Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the EAP Bureau Susan Thornton who assumed post after Danny Russel’s recent departure.  According to the State Department, Secretary Tillerson will arrive in Tokyo on March 15, continue on to Seoul on March 17, and travel to Beijing on March 18 —  apparently without his traveling press.

Here is the official word on this according to the acting @StateDept spox, Mark Toner:

[W]ith respect to the trip to Asia, we’re still working out the logistics, so I really can’t say specifically or speak definitively, I guess, as to whether we will be able to accommodate any press on the Secretary’s plane. I think we’re all aware that it is a smaller plane for this particular trip. There will, as you know, going to – there will be some U.S. media who will be traveling to the destinations, each destination, and of course, we will do our utmost to support them at those destinations and provide whatever access we can.  And I think going forward, the State Department is doing everything it can to – and will do everything it can to accommodate a contingent of traveling media on board the Secretary’s plane.

Wait, Secretary Tillerson’s minders did not purposely select a smaller plane, did they?  The smaller plane excuse would only really work had Secretary Tillerson traveled with the full press during his trips to Mexico and Germany, then say, hey, can’t this time because we’re forced to use a smaller plane. But in Mexico, Secretary Tillerson reportedly only traveled with press pools, took a small plane and had one writer and one photographer. So this is starting to look like this could be the new normal.  If he can get away with not taking his traveling press this time, are we looking at our top diplomat ditching the press for good in the future?  This is, of course, worrisome coz how are we going to Make America Great Again if we can’t even provide a good size plane for our chief diplomat and his traveling press?

Folks, this doesn’t look good. You need to make this right. And hey, about the milkbox, does he have a favorite color?

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Burn Bag: What’s ‘off the record’ about Assignment China?

[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

“Why are we still downplaying the enormous health impact to officers and their families serving in China? Why are State MED officers saying ‘off the record’ that it is irresponsible to send anyone with children to China and yet no one will speak up via official channels?

Hello AFSA …. EAP …. HR… Anyone? And the band played on …. ”

 

 

Theodore Osius III Sworn-in as New U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

 

Via state.gov

Theodore Osius III, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Associate Professor at the National War College in Washington, D.C. on detail from the Department of State. Deeply experienced in Asian Affairs, he was among the first officers in Hanoi, opened the post in Ho Chi Minh City and has held critical senior executive positions in the region. Known as a talented leader and expert manager, he uses his public affairs and electronic outreach savvy to reach important audiences. He has a strong grounding in commercial advocacy that delivers concrete trade results. He will bring essential skills to the task of furthering bilateral relations with the Government of Vietnam, a key nation in Southeast Asia for American diplomacy.

Previously, Mr. Osius served the Department of State as a Senior Fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C. (2012-2013), Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia (2009-2012), Political Minister-Counselor, Embassy New Delhi, India (2006-2009), Deputy Director, Office of Korean Affairs (2004-2006), Regional Environment Officer, Embassy Bangkok, Thailand (2001-2004), Senior Advisor on International Affairs, Office of the Vice President (1998-2001), Political Officer, Consulate General, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (1997-1998), Political Officer, Embassy Hanoi, Vietnam (1996-1997), Staff Aide/Political Officer, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, New York (1993-1995), Political/Management Officer, Embassy Vatican, Holy See (1992-1993) and Political/Consular Officer, Embassy Manila, Philippines (1989-1991). He was also Legislative Correspondent, Office of Albert Gore, Jr., U.S. Senate (1985-1987) and Presidential Intern, American University, Cairo, Egypt (1984-1985). He is a Founding Member of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies.

Mr. Osius earned an A.B. from Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1984 and a M.A. from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. in 1989. He is the recipient of two Senior Foreign Service Performance Awards, six Superior Honor Awards and three Meritorious Honor Awards from the Department of State. He speaks Vietnamese, French, Italian, Basic Arabic, Basic Hindi, Basic Thai, Basic Japanese and Basic Indonesian.

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Dear Congress: You Are Not Allowed to Make Fun of Secretary Kerry’s Asia Pivot Shirts

— By Domani Spero

The cancellation of President Obama’s trip to Asia lent to hyperventilating descriptions about the president’s “Asia Pivot” — “falters,” “in shambles,” “goes pffft,” “in jeopardy” and such.

Well, frankly, not sure where that is going. But we could certainly imagine the political hay that would have been expended over POTUS trip to Asia during a government shutdown.

In any case, Secretary Kerry took the trip instead.

Dear Congress, this is what happened to America in Bali, Indonesia.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for a photo before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Official Dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on October 7, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses for a photo before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Official Dinner in Bali, Indonesia, on October 7, 2013. [State Department photo by William Ng/ Public Domain]

So you’re not allowed to make fun of that shirt or any other shirts, kapish?

We actually think that purple batik suits him well.  Had they asked him to put on a gray one, he would have worn it too, even if he would have looked wash out in it.  Because he’s our top diplomat. Yes, diplomats are known to wear (and eat) things that their compatriots often find strange or weird. (See Round-Up: Headgears in the Foreign Service).

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dressed in a traditional batik shirt, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the two join other heads of delegation for a family photo before the APEC Leaders Dinner on October 7, 2013. in Bali, Indonesia. [State Department photo / Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, dressed in a traditional batik shirt, speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the two join other heads of delegation for a family photo before the APEC Leaders Dinner on October 7, 2013. in Bali, Indonesia. [State Department photo / Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow foreign ministers, all clad in batik shirts favored in Brunei, enter a gala dinner at the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and fellow foreign ministers, all clad in batik shirts favored in Brunei, enter a gala dinner at the ASEAN ministerial meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with other regional heads of state and leaders of delegation before the start of a dinner and cultural program at the ASEAN Summit meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on October 9, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with other regional heads of state and leaders of delegation before the start of a dinner and cultural program at the ASEAN Summit meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on October 9, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

These are way tamer in comparison to what President Bush had to wear during his tenure.

Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Nari caused the cancellation of Secretary Kerry’s trip to the Philippines, so we are missing Secretary Kerry wearing the country’s famous Barong Tagalog.

Anyhow, we understand that Australia continues to host annual six-month training deployments of US Marines to its base in the Northern Territory. Australia’s Courier News reports today that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised the necessary infrastructure will be put in place to accommodate the expected presence of a 1000 U.S. Marines set to train there next year. The government is preparing to construct additional accommodations at two bases in Darwin.

So there’s that.

Then we heard that we are helping the Philippines develop Oyster Bay, a postcard-perfect cove on Palawan Island into a port for naval frigates and eventually for American warships?  All, of course, overlooking the disputed South China Sea.  But given all that’s happening in Washington, D.C….

No wonder Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the later’s 61st birthday “quaffing vodka and wolfing down cake”:

“It was 11:00 pm. I offered our Chinese friends to raise a shot of vodka,” Mr Putin said, according to Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS.

“They did not refuse, so we did just that.” As for the cake: “We wolfed it down successfully”. Needless to say, Mr Putin described his meeting with Mr Xi as “very warm” and “friendly”.

We can’t say if Secretary Kerry was in attendance for that “quaffing” and “wolfing” event.

Meanwhile, back in Foggy Bottom:  The East Asia Pacific bureau has six deputy assistant secretaries, twice as many as in 2004, and a deputy assistant secretary-level U.S. senior official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. State/OIG reports that “the bureau needs to streamline front office staffing” — top heavy structure for the second smallest regional bureau in the house needs fixing.  Why? Because as in other bureaus, “the proliferation of DASes has diminished the role of office directors and reduced responsibility at every level.” Also this:

The administration’s rebalance toward Asia has not been matched by additional financial or human resources. A Congressional Research Service memorandum notes that “[new] initiatives have not, however, been accompanied by a significant increase in the State Department or USAID’s programmatic resources devoted to East Asia.” Foreign assistance to the region in FY 2013 is 19 percent below the FY 2010 peak. U.S. military resources for the region have increased, but sequestration may impact future plans.

Folks, somewhere, some heads of state are laughing their heads off.

👀