US picks veteran to head de facto Taiwan embassy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2012, 12:00am


The United States has named a career diplomat well versed in cross-strait and Hong Kong affairs to head its de facto embassy in Taiwan.

The appointment of Christopher Marut was welcomed by the government of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday. But it raised eyebrows in the island's pro-independence camp, which suspected that move could be an indication of souring US-Taiwan ties, given Marut's relatively low ranking compared with all of his 11 predecessors based in Taiwan, and amid an ongoing US-Taiwan row over an import ban on US beef.

Marut, who will officially replace William Stanton and take office in August, has been in the foreign service for 27 years, according to the American Institute in Taiwan, which was set up in 1979 to oversee US interests on the island after Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Marut's most recent assignment at the State Department was director of the office of Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he served as one of the key advisers on US policy in the Asia-Pacific region, the AIT said.

He was deputy consul general at the US consulate in Hong Kong between 2007 and 2009, and technology officer at the AIT in Taipei between 1986 and 1989, when his two children were born. He was an environmental science and technology officer at the US embassy in Beijing between 1984 and 1986, the institute said.

Taiwan's foreign ministry yesterday welcomed Marut's appointment, calling him an experienced diplomat, and expecting him to do a great job in promoting Taiwan-US relations.

But the pro-independence camp, led by the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, suspected that the appointment of a lower-ranking diplomat was retaliation by the US in response to an ongoing row over a seven-year ban on certain American beef products, including some containing an additive called ractopamine, which makes meat leaner.

'Though he has experience in cross-strait affairs, Marut had served only as high as deputy consul general at the US consulate in Hong Kong,' said Tsai Huang-liang, a DPP legislator.