Sunday, April 01, 2007

State Department, Taiwan, North Korea, China

The Taipei Times yesterday reported that the problem with Chen's speech at the FAPA banquet that provoked a relatively sharp State Department reaction was:

Sensitive discussions between US State Department officials and their North Korean and Chinese counterparts were behind the rather strong reaction the department issued in response to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "four wants" statement earlier this month, sources told the Taipei Times.

US officials felt that Chen's statement, coming at the time it did, could have undermined relations with China and Beijing's cooperation on the Korean nuclear weapons issue, which the US has studiously cultivated in recent years and which it sees as critical to the success of any agreements with Pyongyang.

The Taipei Times also notes that the State Department Taiwan "expert" is Clifford Hart, who seems to widely perceived as anti-Taiwan.

Sources say the origin of the statement came from Clifford Hart, the director of the department's Office of Taiwan Coordination, who many Taiwan backers feel is not very friendly to the country.

The day after Chen's remarks, sources say, Hart went to see officials of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), saying Chen's statement was "particularly unhelpful" in view of the latest developments in the North Korea nuclear issue.

That would mark the first time that the US had explicitly linked the North Korea crisis with Taiwan, although it has long been rumored that China has demanded that Washington lean on Chen as a quid pro quo for Beijing's cooperation on North Korea.

There's a profile of Hart on his college website:

When he was an international affairs and Russian major at Mary Washington, he aspired to play a role in U.S. foreign policy. While also attracted to public service in the military or intelligence, Hart said, “I was always most interested in diplomacy. At the end of the day, the Foreign Service was always my top preference.”

On his way to the State Department, he stopped at Sen. Joe Biden’s office (D-Del.) before moving on to graduate school at the University of Virginia. Since joining the Foreign Service in 1983, he has utilized his Russian language and Soviet politics skills – developed at Mary Washington – during assignments in Moscow and as Kazakhstan desk officer in the mid-1990s. The focus of Hart’s career, however, has been China.

After his first diplomatic assignment at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou, Hart took an intensive two-year full-time course in Chinese. Completing it just at the time of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989, Ford spent his next China assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as an economic officer during a fragile period in U.S.-Chinese relations. In 1990, Hart ran the U.S. government’s team that monitored Mongolia’s first truly democratic election. Back in Beijing during the first Gulf War, Hart helped to ensure that Chinese companies observed United Nations’ sanctions against Iraq.

In subsequent years, Hart served in Washington in various positions and again in China from 1997 to 2000. During that time he won the Foreign Service’s coveted Director General’s Award – the Department’s highest commendation for diplomatic reporting – for his assessments of Chinese national politics and Beijing’s relations with Taiwan. That award is what brought Hart back to Washington during eruption of the 1999 crisis in Beijing.

Hart is obviously a very bright man, but it is clear from this account that he has no serious Taiwan experience, and that his Taiwan expertise is China-centric.


Anonymous said...

You are incorrect about Mr. Hart having no Taiwan experience. The 2nd year of that 2 year language course you mentioned takes place in Taiwan. He later spent another year in Taiwan.

I have spoken with him a number of times and he never seemed to be "anti-Taiwan". This is not to say he agrees with 100% of everything the leaders of Taiwan say. Do you? I doubt it and I also doubt you are anti-Taiwan.

Michael Turton said...

Hart is obviously a very bright man, but it is clear from this account that he has no serious Taiwan experience, and that his Taiwan expertise is China-centric.

I said "serious" Taiwan experience.

I can only say what I hear, and I am delighted that you have given me another perspective. If you want, you can email me a longer piece on hart and I am glad to post it here.

Everyone on all sides maintains to me that the state department is thoroughly anti-taiwan. dunno why.