Wed, Apr 20, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Stephen Young tipped to replace Paal

CHANGING OF THE GUARD The director of the US' de facto embassy in Taiwan is planning to leave his post, sources said, and a veteran diplomat may take his place

By Mac William Bishop  /  STAFF REPORTER

US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Stephen Young.


American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Douglas Paal is scheduled to leave his post on July 1, and his likely replacement will be veteran diplomat Stephen Young, sources in Washington and Taipei told the Taipei Times yesterday.

When asked to comment on the issue, AIT deputy spokeswoman Nadine Siak confirmed that Paal is planning to leave, but said she had no further information on the date of his departure or who his replacement would be.

A US government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that it was an "open secret" in Washington that Young was Paal's most likely successor.

Young is currently the US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, a post he has held since July 25, 2003. He has been in the US Department of State for 25 years, and is a former AIT deputy director as well as a former director of the State Department's Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs.

AIT is the de facto US embassy in Taiwan established under the US' Taiwan Relations Act, and appointments to the post of AIT director -- in effect the US ambassador to Taiwan -- do not require Senate confirmation.

The appointment of a career foreign-service officer as the head of AIT would probably be greeted with enthusiasm by State Department officials and their Taiwanese counterparts, the source said.

"With Steve [Young], you know what you are getting," a separate source in Taiwan said.

"At least he's diplomatic -- a real professional," the source said.

Many observers of Taiwan-US relations have said that the Bush and Chen administrations have had a difficult relationship in recent years, and some have specifically said that part of the problem was the personal animosity between President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Douglas Paal.

One senior US official said that Chen and Paal "dislike each other so intensely that they hardly ever meet."

The official cited a series of missteps and miscommunications as the source of the friction, saying that "Paal had the deck stacked against him before he even came to Taiwan."

"Some Taiwanese officials were very open about their dislike of Paal before he came to Taipei," the official said.

"As a result, Paal understandably had a chip on his shoulder when he got here," the official said.

However, the US government source said this was idle rumor-mongering.

"Even if there were personal issues, Doug [Paal] and Chen are too professional to let it affect US-Taiwan relations," the US source said.

It was not immediately clear if Paal plans to continue in government service. But the US source said it was widely thought that Paal would be "promoted" within the Bush administration.

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