James Lilley, American Institute in Taiwan director from 1981 to 1984, died in Washington on Thursday from complications related to prostate cancer. He was 81.
In his long career with the US government, Lilley also served as US ambassador to South Korea from 1986 to 1989, and to China from 1989 to 1991.
Prior to entering the diplomatic field, Lilley worked at the CIA for 27 years, which he joined in 1951. His postings at the agency included China, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Laos, Taiwan, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
When the US opened its liaison office in Beijing in 1971, Lilley became the first “declared” US intelligence official in China and the CIA’s first station chief in the capital.
Lilley, who later also came to be known as Li Jieming (李潔明), was born in Qingdao, Shandong, in 1928, where his father and role model, Frank Lilley, worked as a salesman for Standard Oil.
In 2004, Lilley published his memoir China Hands, which eloquently described his formative childhood in China, his years as a CIA operative and the power struggles between China, Taiwan and the US, including his first-hand experience of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
After his ambassadorship in Beijing, Lilley became a forceful — and public — proponent of greater US support for Taiwan, efforts that he continued after being appointed assistant secretary of defense for international affairs from 1991 to 1993. He often clashed with the US Department of State over arms sales to Taiwan, arguing that it would be unwise to grant Beijing the cutoff date that it sought.
Expressing her condolences to the family on Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called him “one of our nation’s finest diplomats.”
In its obituary, the Washington Post described Lilley as “one of the most pragmatic voices on the modern Sino-American relationship.”
In a statement on Friday, former US president George H.W. Bush, who was close to Lilley, described him as “a most knowledgeable and effective ambassador who served with great honor and distinction.”
In a statement, Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) said Lilley had made many contributions to and spoken for Taiwan’s interests.
“His death is Taiwan’s loss,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA
TAKES THE CAKE: Chinese diplomats tried to take photographs of people attending a National Day event in Suva, before reportedly assaulting a Taiwanese diplomat The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday condemned the Chinese embassy in Fiji over a fracas at its Double Ten National Day event at a Suva hotel, while a lawmaker demanded that the ministry file a lawsuit against Chinese embassy personnel for injuring a Taiwanese diplomat at the event. The Grubsheet news blog on Sunday and New Zealand-based Asia-Pacific Report Web site yesterday reported that two members of the Chinese embassy in Suva tried to force their way into a celebration held by the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel on Oct. 8 to take photographs of
TAIPEI REACTIONS: Joanne Ou decried China’s ‘gangster diplomacy,’ while MOFA said its Fiji counterpart dealt fairly with the incident and protected the trade office’s rights The world should denounce the actions of Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji against a Taiwanese diplomat during a National Day celebration in Suva, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday as it thanked the Fijian government for its help after the Oct. 8 incident. Two Chinese diplomats tried to force their way into a celebration held by the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Oct. 8, and a Taiwanese diplomat who tried to stop them taking photographs suffered a head injury. MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) told a news briefing that the ministry
The US, Japan and Australia conducted trilateral naval exercises in the South China Sea on Monday, the US Seventh Fleet announced yesterday. It was their fifth joint operations this year in the fleet’s area of operations, it said in a statement. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain joined the JS Kirisame of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Arunta. The Arunta’s commanding officer, Commander Troy Duggan, said that Australia was continuing to build on its already close relationship with Japan and the US. “This activity is a valuable and important opportunity for all three nations,”
UPS AND DOWNS: The institute’s annual Asia Power Index says that Taiwan this year has seen one of the biggest gains in diplomatic influences The US remains the top power in the Indo-Pacific, but has suffered the biggest relative fall in its standing in the region over the past year, partly because of the loss of prestige over the mishandling of COVID-19, the Lowy Institute’s Asia Power Index shows. Releasing the latest annual results yesterday, the Australia-based foreign policy think tank said while China’s standing had stalled, it remained in second place and was believed to be on track to match the US by the end of this decade. Australia was one of the few countries to gain in the scores of comprehensive power this year,