Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou named one of his top aides as his chief adviser on national security on Friday in the latest government personnel reshuffle.
The appointment of King Pu-tsung, currently Taiwan’s envoy to the United States, is seen as an attempt by the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) to consolidate support at local elections at the end of this year, widely considered a political popularity test ahead of the presidential election in 2016.
King will replace Jason Yuan as Secretary-General of the National Security Council, Taiwan’s presidential office announced. Yuan is named a senior adviser to Ma, and King’s current post will be filled by the island’s envoy to Britain, Shen Lyushun.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency, quoting presidential office sources, said King’s appointment was aimed at helping Taiwan’s bid to join regional trade blocs, and promoting cross-strait ties.
But observers said the reshuffle was a tactic for the KMT to prepare for a skirmish with its rival Democratic Progressive Party for mayoral races in Taipei and four other municipalities in December.
Any defeat of the KMT at the local elections could be a setback for the party’s presidential election bid.
King is expected to strengthen co-ordination between various security agencies, such as the foreign affairs and defence ministries and the mainland affairs council, ensuring that Ma’s directives are properly implemented, said Lin Wen-cheng, director of the Institute of Mainland China Studies at Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-sen University.
King has been one of Ma’s closest aides since helping him win the Taipei mayoral election in 1997, and the presidential election in 2008.
“Ma only has two years to consolidate the foundation for the presidential election,” Lin said. “And it is important for Ma to assign this important position to a trusted aide.”
Chi Kuo-tung, a KMT legislator and a political commentator, said King could effectively push through Ma’s policies in terms of security and cross-strait issues in the remainder of his tenure, especially on a summit between Ma and President Xi Jinping.
“And what matters most to Ma now is to leave a legacy after he steps down, and orchestrating a summit between Ma and Xi could help Ma score an impressive mark in terms of cross-strait relations,” he said.
Fan Shih-ping, a political science professor at National Normal University, said the appointment of King indicated that Ma saw election issues as being as important as national security issues.
“It remains to be seen whether King is capable enough to take on the post and gather all available resources to help KMT win the year-end elections,” Fan said.