Former AIT deputy chief named director: sources

By Nadia Tsao and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter in Washington, with staff writer

Sun, Jun 10, 2018 - Page 1

Former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) deputy director Brent Christensen is tapped to become the new AIT director, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday, adding that President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration has approved the appointment and notified the US government.

AIT Director Kin Moy, who took office in June 2015, is expected to leave Taipei this summer following a dedication ceremony on Tuesday for the new AIT compound in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖), although no date has been announced.

A career member of the US Foreign Service, Christensen was last posted in Taiwan during former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) second term and maintains cordial relations with Taiwan’s major parties.

He was AIT deputy director from 2012 to 2015 and served as acting director between former AIT directors William Stanton and Christopher Marut.

There was initially indecision over whether Moy’s successor should be a political appointee or a career member of the service, with former US representative Matt Salmon considered for the position, sources said.

However, people in diplomatic circles believe that given past experiences, the most important factor that needs consideration was whether the new director has the passion and creativity needed bolster US-Taiwan relations, they said.

Washington could send US Assistant Secretary of State for Education and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce to attend the ceremony, the sources added.

The White House is cautious about its Taiwan policy in the lead-up to the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on Tuesday, and things could change until Royce arrives in Taiwan, a service source said.

Christensen has served as Director of the Office of Taiwan Coordination since September 2010.

He also served as counselor for environment, science, technology and health at the US embassy in China and as an American Political Science Association congressional fellow on the staff of former US senator Olympia Snowe.

Prior to joining the service, Christensen served as a captain in the US Air Force.

He has a doctorate in dental medicine from Oregon Health and Science University, a master’s degree from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University.