Kurt Campell — the major US diplomat dealing with Taiwan relations — has resigned as assistant US secretary of state for East Asia.
His departure on Friday was not unexpected — he signaled months ago that he planned to leave at the end of US President Barack Obama’s first term. A replacement has not been named and Campbell’s highly respected deputy Joe Yun — one of the highest-ranking Korean-Americans in the US government — is taking over on a temporary basis.
The development was first reported on Friday night by Chris Nelson in his privately distributed Nelson Report.
According to well-informed sources, the White House has suggested National Security Council director for Japan, South Korea and North Korea Daniel Russel as Campbell’s permanent replacement. However, those sources say that US Secretary of State John Kerry is still considering others.
Other possibles are said to include Harvard professor Joe Nye; former US ambassador to South Korea Kathy Stephens; former Department of State official Susan Shirk; former American Institute in Taiwan chief Richard Bush; Senate Foreign Relations staffer Michael Schiffer; and Frank Januzzi, head of Amnesty International’s Washington office.
A Department of State source said that he did not know what Campbell was planning on doing next. Campbell could not be reached for comment. The source said that Campbell had simply informed Kerry that he had decided to return to private life.
“Assistant Secretary Campbell played an instrumental role in leading the Department’s efforts to reorient American priorities to the Asia-Pacific as part of the strategic rebalance to maintain and deepen relations in the region,” the State Department said in a statement.
At a conference last month, Campbell joked about his career at the department ending soon by saying that when he arrived for work that morning there was a delivery truck in his parking space. He added that workmen had been told that his office was empty.
Later he said that he expected to find a big black crow on his office windowsill.
Campbell has been extremely popular and Asian experts in Washington are almost unanimous in their praise of his diplomatic abilities.