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Asia Minute: U.S. Diplomatic Changes Coming

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi
FILE - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Kurt Campbell speaks to the media at foreign ministry in Tokyo, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013.

Every new presidential administration brings a series of changes to federal positions ranging from cabinet secretaries to senior positions at the Pentagon, State Department and elsewhere. And a quiet announcement late last week drew some attention in the Asia Pacific.

Regional media sometimes track U.S. foreign policy down to the level of staffing at embassies.

Last weekthe Biden administration withdrew former President Trump’s latest nominationas ambassador to Singapore.

That’s not unusual, new presidents generally replace political appointees, but this nomination had stalled for nearly a year and a half. And the previous nominee, former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland withdrew after questions about her role in the investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

That’s left the United States without an ambassador to Singapore for the past four years.

Ambassadorial changes are a routine feature of new administrations — right now regional posts are open from South Korea and Japan to India and Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines.

But one senior position of influence has been filled — Kurt Campbell will be part of the National Security Council at the White House as “Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs.”

In the Obama Administration, Campbell was the State Department’s top official for the Asia Pacific, and a primary architect of the policy “pivot” or “rebalance” toward Asia.

While Covid tops the current crisis list for the Biden Administration, look for Campbell to lead the emergence of a more multilateral approach in dealing with China.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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