Tue, Jan 24, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Huang vague on foreign affairs position

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian, left, speaks with Presidential Office Deputy Secretary-General James Huang, right, as they participate in a year-end gathering held by the Presidential Office for reporters. Various sources are saying that Huang will be the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.

PHOTO: CNA

Deputy Secretary-General of the Presidential Office James Huang (黃志芳) yesterday refused to confirm whether he would take over from Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山).

"Minister Huang? I've never heard of that ... So far, no one has informed be about any change of my position," Huang told the media at a lunch gathering yesterday.

Speculation has run rife in Taipei's political circles over the last few days on whether Huang will be the new minister of foreign affairs.

At the age of 48, Huang is on a fast track to become the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration's youngest foreign minister, in line with the government policy to promote a younger generation of politicians.

Huang holds a bachelor's degree in political science from National Taiwan University and his civil-service record spans the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and DPP governments.

Beginning his political career as a diplomat, Huang entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in 1985 as the chief secretary for Chen Chien-jen (程建人), who is currently the nation's top envoy in the EU and a former top representative in the US.

During his stint in the foreign ministry, Huang served in the country's de facto embassy in Washington, as a section chief in the ministry's North American Affairs department and also as English interpreter for former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) and former premier Vincent Siew (蕭萬長).

In 1999 he entered the Mainland Affairs Council, where he began to develop a close working relationship with the DPP government. He was recommended to enter the Presidential Office in 2002 by former council chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

During his service in the Presidential Office as spokesman and later as deputy chief of staff, Huang became a trustworthy aide to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Huang was the key man behind a number of successful overseas state visits by Chen, making diplomatic breakthroughs in places such as the United Arab Emirates, where Chen made a surprise stop-over in Abu Dhabi last year.

Although pundits have expressed concern that Huang's relative youth could present difficulties in commanding the hierarchical foreign ministry, where many of the senior officials are his former bosses, the foreign ministry seems to hold a generally optimistic view about his possible arrival.

Some believe that a young minister would be able to energize the ministry.

"A young minister will certainly bring in energy to the ministry and his comprehensive cross-departmental experience will be a plus to his job," a foreign ministry official said yesterday.

Additional reporting by Chiu Yu-tzu

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