Sandra Oudkirk yesterday took over as director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) as the country bid farewell to her predecessor, Brent Christensen, who departed for the US.
Oudkirk was seen arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Monday with a mask bearing the greeting, “Hello Taiwan.”
The AIT in a statement yesterday described Oudkirk as a 30-year veteran of the US Foreign Service with a deep understanding of East Asia and Pacific affairs.
Photo: Tony Yao, Taipei Times
She is expected to start in her new role after completing 14 days of quarantine and seven days of self-health management in accordance with Taiwan’s COVID-19 protocols, the AIT said.
Oudkirk “looks forward to building on the successes of her predecessors and to further advancing the US-Taiwan relationship,” it said.
Christensen, who had been the de facto US representative in Taiwan since 2018, arrived at the airport with Taiwanese officials at about 8:30am.
Photo: Tony Yao, Taipei Times
Christensen told reporters that he would “absolutely” return to visit Taiwan.
He was seen waving to reporters as he entered customs to board a US-bound United Airlines flight.
“The first time I left my hometown at age 19, it was to come to Taiwan,” Christensen wrote in a farewell letter released by the AIT on Friday last week.
“From that early age, Taiwan became synonymous for me with the ideas of exchange and understanding, exploration and adventure,” he wrote.
“I may be leaving Taiwan, but Taiwan will never leave me,” he added.
Christensen received a warm send-off from Democratic Progressive Party politicians, who hailed his tenure as a period of significant breakthroughs in Taiwan-US relations.
On June 25, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) awarded Christensen the Order of the Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon in commendation of his efforts in advancing bilateral relations, including facilitating the delivery of 2.5 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from the US.
Vice President William Lai (賴清德), Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) and Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) also thanked Christensen for his contributions to Taiwan.
When asked about his gift of Aiwen mangoes to Christensen, Huang said the fruit was originally imported from Florida and to him it symbolized the friendship between the two countries.
“I hope Christensen was able to enjoy the sweetness of this famous Tainan produce, to show my thanks for the fruitfulness of the bilateral relationship that has prospered under his watch over the past years,” Huang said.
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