Fri, Sep 09, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Situation in Taiwan not well represented: report

BY CHARLES SNYDER  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A critical State Department report on the operations of the American Institute in Taiwan's (AIT) Taipei office has found serious shortcomings in the management style of Director Douglas Paal, calling staff morale low and citing an inability to accurately explain the situation in Taiwan to the US government.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) yesterday said it was inappropriate for him to comment on media report about the US State Department's evaluation report on the performance of Paal and AIT.

The evaluation report, by the department's inspector-general (IG), was kept secret, although a publicly-available summary was made available by the department, which virtually ignores the negative comments of the full report. But people who have read the full report say it is scathing in its evaluation of several aspects of Paal's management.

MEDIA LEAK

The evaluation report was first disclosed by the Chinese-language daily China Times. Chen yesterday said that he learned of the information from the media.

"I have played [golf] with him several times. I know he is quite a straightforward man. As for the others, it is inappropriate for me to make any comment," Chen said.

Paal has made specific contributions to US-Taiwan relations, Chen added.

Of the 48 points used to evaluate Paal and the office, the de facto US ambassador scored worst in the area of morale, which was considered the most serious problem facing the office.

The investigation found that Paal was unduly "strong handed" and refused to listen to dissenting views among his aides.

"He would not allow dissenting views. He would even suppress dissenting views. So the US government may not have had a comprehensive, well-rounded view of the situation in Taiwan. It would make it difficult to have a balanced view of Taiwan," said one person who had access to the report.

The investigators found Paal to be ineffective in dealing with the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration.

Even before Paal took over the post in 2002, he was faced with problems with the Chen government, the report said. It cited problems he had with Taiwan officials in the past, and said he "was not welcomed" when he arrived in Taipei.

Because of this, he did not really become a successful and effective representative of the US government, which made it difficult for him to influence the actions of Chen or the DPP government, the IG investigators found.

In one of its only positive comments on Paal, the report found him able to accurately relay US government policy to Chen and his government, which resulted in a moderation of the more extreme aspects of Chen's policies and positions in recent years. The investigators concluded that as a result, Taiwan was able to rely on his version of US policy.

Paal was to have retired from his AIT position in July with the expectation that he would be assigned to another diplomatic post by the Bush administration. He had been hoping to be named the new ambassador to Singapore, or perhaps South Korea. However, according to Washington sources, Paal was rejected for all the diplomatic posts available.

As a result, he reportedly was allowed to stay on until December, when he would be eligible for a full State Department pension upon retirement.

The department IG investigation covered all three AIT offices, in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Washington. The fieldwork was conducted from Feb. 28 through March 21 this year, and the summary of the report was issued on the department's Web site on July 12. It was described as a routine investigation that was conducted annually to assess AIT's performance and efficiency.

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