The Cable

Big changes coming to Obama’s Asia team

Several senior Obama administration Asia officials are set to either leave government or move to new jobs within the bureaucracy in the coming months, as the White House tries to hit the reset button on U.S.-China relations.

As part of a cautious warming of U.S.-China relations in the early days of President Barack Obama's term, his administration elected to postpone arms sales to Taiwan and a visit by the Dalai Lama in 2009. Beijing was pleased, but that evaporated when the arms sales went through in January 2010 and the visit went ahead in February 2010. That month, China responded by breaking off U.S.-China military-to-military relations.

China's aggressive stance on a range of issues, such as its claimed of sovereignty over the South China Sea, as well as Beijing's de facto defense of North Korean bad behavior, contributed to a worsening of ties. China was also seen to have worked against U.S. goals at the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2010, resisted efforts to place strong new sanctions on Iran at the U.N. Security Council, and declined to heed U.S. calls for a significant revaluation of its undervalued currency.

The Obama administration changed its stance toward China to a more competitive posture in response, codifying this policy shift during Defense Secretary Robert Gates' trip to Southeast Asia last May and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to Vietnam in August. Recognizing China's increasingly aggressive diplomatic stance, the administration decided to set clearer red lines and step up its collaboration with regional allies to address their concerns about increased Chinese influence.

The United States has also joined regional organizations, such as the East Asia Summit, which signaled increased U.S. attention to the region. It has also successfully shored up its ties with South Korea and Vietnam after lull in those relationships during the Bush administration. Relations with Japan have not gone as well, but Japanese politics have been in upheaval pretty much since Obama took office.

The two top Obama administration officials responsible for driving this policy have been NSC Senior Director for Asia Jeffrey Bader and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell. Although Campbell is generally seen as more hawkish on China than Bader, the two close friends have worked together from day one.

But sometime after Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington this month, Bader will leave his post at the NSC, several administration insiders confirmed to The Cable. The exact date of Bader's departure is not set, and could still be weeks or months from now. Bader, who has been working on China since the 1970s (and was once an assistant to Assistant Secretary of State for Asia Richard Holbrooke), is rumored to be looking for the exit due to the understandable fatigue caused by working a job that has basically required a 24/7 commitment for almost two years.

The leading candidate to replace Bader, according to several administration sources, is the NSC's Daniel Russel, one of the directors who currently works under Bader. Russell is a Japan hand, having served as the head of State's Japan Desk after being consul general in the Japanese cities of Osaka and Kobe. Russell's selection might give Japan watchers hope that the White House would reinvigorate the stagnant U.S.-Japan relationship, but the likelihood is that China will continue to dominate the administration's Asia agenda going forward.

The other contenders for Bader's post are Derek Mitchell, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs, Michael Schiffer, another DAS-D who works with Mitchell, and Frank Jannuzi, policy director for East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Mitchell, a top Asia hand who worked with Campbell at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is said to be looking to move because the PDAS position he holds is more focused on management than policy. Schiffer, who spent 9 years on the staff of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), has been intimately involved in a variety of issues related to Asia policy and would be able to move into the post seamlessly, Asia hands said. Jannuzi, who was a top Obama campaign foreign policy advisor, is close to the Biden team and could also be a good fit with the current Biden-heavy leadership at the NSC.

Meanwhile, back at State, there are other moves in the works. Campbell's principal deputy Joe Donovan is being considered for a number of different ambassadorships, including as the next envoy to South Korea. He would replace longtime foreign service officer Kathleen Stephens. If the White House decides to give that post to a political appointee (traditionally, Seoul has gone to a career diplomat), then Donovan would probably be offered the ambassadorship of Cambodia, multiple administration sources confirmed.

The White House announced last month that David Shear, another deputy in Campbell's EAP bureau, will be appointed ambassador to Vietnam. So that leaves two open DAS slots at EAP for Campbell to fill. The principal deputy must be a career bureaucrat, but the question remains whether Campbell will return to the tradition of having one political appointee as a deputy when he fills Shear's slot.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg has been rumored to be leaving State for a long time now, but still remains at his post and is very active on Asia policy. Our sources report that Steinberg had originally told the White House he would only stay for two years, but has not yet found the right job to justify him leaving State.

Back at the Pentagon, changes are expected sooner rather than later at the Asia Pacific office run by Assistant Secretary Chip Gregson.  A shuffle in the leadership of that office would not come as a surprise to anyone, but many say that decision is on hold until there's some clarity as to when Gates will leave -- and who will replace him.

Besides Campbell, one of the only senior Obama administration Asia officials not thought to be leaving imminently is U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. Despite some reports that he is eyeing a presidential run, administration officials said they haven't seen signs that he is planning to leave Beijing any time soon, and praised his work on U.S.-China relations. More on that tomorrow...

The Cable

Clinton to staff: A busy year ahead for diplomacy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told her staff in a memo today that the furious pace of international challenges is only going to increase in 2011, as the State Department forges ahead with internal change and a full plate of diplomatic challenges..

"In 2010, we faced challenges on almost every front, and our diplomacy and development efforts were put to the test," Clinton wrote to State Department employees. "On all of these issues and more, we've made good progress. But every step forward opens up new opportunities and reveals fresh challenges. The advances we made in 2010 leave us with a full agenda for 2011."

Clinton touted the new "strategic partnership" with Pakistan, the U.S. entry into the East Asia Summit, the NATO strategic concept unveiled in Lisbon, multilateral sanctions imposed on Iran, and U.S. disaster relief in Pakistan and Haiti as some of the State Department's signature accomplishments of 2010. Clinton also praised the work on climate change accomplished during the Cancun summit, but didn't mention the previous conference in Copenhagen.

The secretary of state also pledged to forge ahead on issues that proved to be more difficult during the past year.

"We will continue working with the Israelis and Palestinians towards a lasting peace with security and prosperity for everyone in the region, and maintaining pressure on the governments of Iran and North Korea to honor the obligations that they must meet as members of the international community," she wrote.

Clinton also called on all State Department and USAID employees to get personally involved in the implementation of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) released last month.

"I am confident that the QDDR, which we released last month, has charted a course for achieving those goals. But it is only a blueprint for change. Each of us has to help make it real," she said.

Clinton began with a tribute to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who passed away unexpectedly last month.

"Many of us lost a dear friend, and America lost one of its most dedicated servants. But as we move into the New Year, Richard's life serves as inspiration for what we do at the State Department and USAID. Richard knew that public service is difficult but necessary work, and he would have joined me in expressing appreciation for all you have done these past 12 months."

 

A memorial for Holbrooke will be held at the Kennedy Center on Jan. 14.

Full memo after the jump:

THE SECRETARY OF STATE

WASHINGTON

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

We ended 2010 on a sad note with the passing of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Many of us lost a dear friend, and America lost one of its most dedicated servants. But as we move into the New Year, Richard's life serves as inspiration for what we do at the State Department and USAID. Richard knew that public service is difficult but necessary work, and he would have joined me in expressing appreciation for all you have done these past 12 months. Where we have succeeded, often against long odds, it has been because of your hard work and dedication. You are the backbone of America's civilian power and our leadership in a rapidly changing world.

As I said at the Council on Foreign Relations in September, now is the time to make this our American Moment-when our global leadership must find resourceful and efficient ways to help solve the most complex challenges of our time.

In 2010, we faced challenges on almost every front, and our diplomacy and development efforts were put to the test. From the Middle East to the Korean peninsula and beyond, old conflicts continued to churn. Natural disasters devastated Haiti and displaced more than 20 million people in Pakistan. Around the world, millions of people-particularly women and children-suffered the ravages of war, famine, poverty and disease. As always, the year did not lack for the unexpected, from the volcanic ash that disrupted much of the world's air travel, to the Wikileaks disclosures that threatened our efforts to safeguard America's security and advance prosperity everywhere.

We approached these and other problems as we always do-with dedication, zeal, and commitment. I see that every day in the work that is done at home; and in 220,000 miles of travel to 55 countries during the past 12 months, I had the privilege to see, first hand, the hard work that is done overseas.

We strengthened our bilateral relationships with countries on every continent, especially our most trusted allies in Europe and the Pacific. We deepened engagement with emerging centers of influence and other key partners. For example, we began a Strategic Dialogue with Pakistan that brought together experts from across both our governments to tackle an unprecedented range of issues.

We also continued to build up our multilateral relationships. This year, for the first time ever, the United States participated in the East Asia Summit. Our strong support for NATO continued at the summit in Lisbon, where we agreed on a new Strategic Concept that will modernize the Alliance and put it in the best position to face the challenges of the 21st century. And, working with fellow members of the United Nations Security Council, including Russia and China, we put into place the strongest and most comprehensive set of sanctions ever assembled against Iran to hold it accountable for its actions.

In Haiti, we joined with more than 140 nations to mount one of the largest rescue and relief efforts in history. In Pakistan, we provided some $500 million in relief support, evacuated nearly 23,000 people, and delivered more than 16 million pounds of relief supplies. And we continued to advance global health around the world by bringing life-saving prevention, treatment, and care to more people in more places; to fight poverty, hunger, and disease; and to safeguard the rights and the roles of girls and women everywhere.

We worked with the other major economies on national commitments to curb carbon emissions and, in Cancun, joined with 190 nations to advance those core elements and drive a broader global response to climate change.

On all of these issues and more, we've made good progress. But every step forward opens up new opportunities and reveals fresh challenges. The advances we made in 2010 leave us with a full agenda for 2011. We will continue to strengthen our bilateral and multilateral ties, and remain focused on our many critical priorities around the world, from rebalancing the global economy, to thwarting international terrorism, to stopping the spread of catastrophic weapons, to advancing democracy and human rights.

Our diplomatic agenda extends to every continent. We will continue working with the Israelis and Palestinians towards a lasting peace with security and prosperity for everyone in the region, and maintaining pressure on the governments of Iran and North Korea to honor the obligations that they must meet as members of the international community. And on the development front, we remain committed to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals to extend hope and opportunity to millions of people in the developing world.

We will also continue to improve the way we work-with a particular focus on implementing the reforms in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). When I announced the QDDR in 2009, I wanted it to be a sweeping review of our work. Everywhere I went, I heard from State and USAID employees that we could improve the way we do business, finding innovative solutions and building cross-agency partnerships to achieve measurable results. I am confident that the QDDR, which we released last month, has charted a course for achieving those goals. But it is only a blueprint for change. Each of us has to help make it real.   

 

For instance, one of the central recommendations of the QDDR is to tap the vast array of skill sets and expertise across the government and private sector. If you work in the Foreign Service, you can partner with other agencies or the private sector to advance specific goals and projects in your country or area of expertise. And if you are a Civil Servant, you can identify another agency or agencies that you need to know more about, whose expertise can help advance the work you do at State or USAID.

If you are a manager, you can find ways to reward your people for showing collaborative leadership and working together to get things done.

If you are a development professional, you can ask yourself what changes you can make personally to make AID more efficient and allow us to deliver even more powerful results for the American people and the countries we support.

If you are new to State or USAID, you can draw on your outside experience and your observations of how we could do business more efficiently and effectively.

And whether you're at State or USAID, you can be building bridges between our two organizations so that development and diplomacy can be mutually reinforcing pillars of American foreign policy.

Imagine the impact of 271 missions around the world, development professionals in more than 100 nations, and experts from other U.S. government agencies, all working together to advance America's core interests. I have no doubt that, if we take this path together, we will seize that American Moment and continue to lead the world toward a more peaceful and prosperous future.  

Thank you again for your service to our country. I hope you and your family have a safe and happy 2011.

Sincerely,

Hillary Rodham Clinton