Sat, Jan 13, 2001 - Page 8 News List

The roles of US Cabinet deputies

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

The strong language Bush has used to describe his policy toward Asia [especially considering Japan as the US' top partner in Asia, and on defending Taiwan], is the work of Armitage. He was one of the signatories of a high-profile letter to Clinton in 1999, supporting the US commitment to defend Taiwan. His close friendship with Powell, his background in Vietnam, his experience as assistant secretary in the Department of Defense, and his continuing work on numerous panels and committees making recommendations on national-security issues, ensure he will be a player in the new Administration.

Paul Wolfowitz, former undersecretary for policy at the Department of Defense, assistant secretary of State, and ambassador to Indonesia, is an academic and highly regarded policy expert. He was behind former Secretary of State George Schultz's attitude toward China, that China is an important but vastly overrated power. He too was a signatory of the 1999 memo supporting a clear commitment to the defense of Taiwan, and also has been an advisor to Bush on national security policy since he began running in the primaries. He is currently the head of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He seems assured to have an influential position in the Bush government.

John Bolton, executive vice president of the American Enterprise Institute think tank, is a former assistant attorney general, and later assistant secretary for international organizations in the State Department. He has testified before Congress in support of Taiwan's membership in international organizations, a cause in support of which he has had several articles published. His stalwart help to Bush in the Florida debacle, and his broad experience in both law and international affairs, also make him a likely candidate for an influential position in the Bush government.

Mike Armacost, now the head of the Brookings Institute, has welcomed scholarly exchanges with Taiwan in that capacity. He has been a special advisor to the US ambassador to Japan, a deputy assistant secretary in both State and Defense, and the undersecretary of state for political affairs during the Reagan administration.

For the media, pursuing leads on possible appointees will get increasingly difficult. Not only are the numbers of assistant secretaries, and for many departments even deputy assistant secretaries, much greater, but the number of people involved in making each decision increases.

Though there is a tradition that a new president is given the benefit of the doubt on his initial appointments, interest groups are not a part of that tradition. Already some are preparing to pressure Senate members to vote against the attorney-general-designate, but most observers believe he will be confirmed.

The designated Cabinet members and deputy secretaries generally are quickly scheduled for hearings. While there will be many partisan battles on both issues and ideology, national security concerns with a new government taking power make Congress reluctant to leave these positions open. Candidates such as the four mentioned above, however, are a good sign for the US-Taiwan relationship.

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