‘Staunch’ friend of Taiwan’s to become top US diplomat in Taipei, sources say

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Written By Pinang Driod

By Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) -A staunch friend of Taiwan’s will this summer take over as the top U.S. diplomat in Taipei, three sources briefed on the matter said, roughly coinciding with the island’s new president taking office at a time of rising tensions with China.

Like most nations, the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Chinese-claimed Taiwan, but is its most important international backer and arms supplier, to Beijing’s anger. China has ramped up political and military pressure against Taiwan.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media, told Reuters that Raymond Greene, currently deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Tokyo, will replace Sandra Oudkirk as director of the American Institute in Taiwan, or AIT.

AIT handles relations between the United States and Taiwan in the absence of official relations. Career diplomat Greene, who was deputy head of AIT before going to Japan, will be the de facto U.S. ambassador in Taipei.

AIT referred questions to the U.S. State Department, which said it did not have any information to share on personnel matters.

“Greene is viewed here as a staunch friend of Taiwan’s and knows Taiwan well,” one of the sources said.

A second source said Greene, who speaks both Japanese and Mandarin, would also be able to serve as a useful conduit between Taiwan and Japan, given Tokyo’s concerns about possible Chinese military action against the island.

Greene will be assuming his new role as Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te, takes charge. Lai, who won election in January but is not inaugurated until May 20, is detested by China which views him as a dangerous separatist and has rebuffed his offers of talks.

Lai says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future, and rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims.

It was not clear exactly when Greene would take up his role, but the sources said it would be this summer when Oudkirk’s term is up. She took the role in July 2021.

Greene was previously the U.S. consul general in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu and Japan’s Okinawa, home to a U.S. military base that lies not far from Taiwan.

In 2021, shortly before moving from Taipei to Tokyo, Greene said in a speech that when he first worked in Taiwan two decades ago, everything AIT did related back to cross-Taiwan Strait issues and how Taiwan fit into the U.S.-China relationship.

But over the preceding three years, efforts had been overwhelmingly focused on deepening ties and working together to help other countries develop their economies and democratic institutions, he said.

“The United States no longer sees Taiwan as a ‘problem’ in our relations with China, we see it as an opportunity to advance our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and also as a beacon to peoples around the world who aspire for a more just, safe, prosperous, and democratic world,” added Greene.

China considers Taiwan the most sensitive and important topic in its relations with the United States.

The United States holds its presidential election in November, in what could be another uncertain factor for U.S.-Taiwan relations, though Taiwan’s foreign ministry said last week it believed U.S. support would remain unchanged no matter who won.

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