Jeffrey Bader, senior director for Asian Affairs with the US’ National Security Council (NSC) and US President Barack Obama’s top adviser on China, will leave his job at the end of this week.
He is the third member of the president’s vitally important China team to announce his resignation in the last two months.
The exit of Bader, US deputy secretary of state James Steinberg and US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is almost certain to have an impact on Obama’s China policy, but is unlikely to affect Taiwan in any substantive way.
It could lead to a slightly harder line on China, with more criticism and pressure on such issues as human rights.
However, policy decisions on major Taiwan issues, such as arms sales, are not expected to change.
Bader and Steinberg were brought into the administration in the first place to strengthen ties throughout Asia, but most particularly to cultivate relations with Beijing — relations that are now cooling.
While Bader, Steinberg and Hunstman are thought to have been successful in many ways, the White House and the US Department of State are worried about China’s increasingly autocratic policies and military buildup.
As a result, more attention is being paid to developing relations with Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia and this attention could increase.
The New York Times reports that the loss of the three “most prominent players on China policy” signals an Obama administration shake-up that could reinforce efforts to “counterbalance” Beijing.
Bader, a veteran China-hand, is returning to the influential Washington-based think tank, the Brookings Institution, and will be replaced by his deputy Daniel Russel, a Japan expert.
Steinberg’s departure is thought likely to increase the power of US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Kurt -Campbell, who also has extensive Japan experience.
Huntsman, returning to Washington to seek the Republican presidential nomination and challenge Obama in next year’s White House race, is being replaced by the lower-profile trade expert and current US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
A friend of Bader, who asked not to be named, told the Taipei Times that the stress and strain of the NSC had taken a toll on Bader and that Steinberg’s decision to leave had also influenced his decision.
Russel speaks Japanese and has worked at the UN and in Europe.
US foreign policy officials were reluctant to speculate on the degree of change that could result from the personnel moves.
They said that while the advice reaching the top might change in subtle ways, Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon would continue to make the final decisions.
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