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June 24, 2017

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Christopher Marut welcomed as newest AIT Taipei director

By Joseph Yeh--The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday welcomed the United States' appointment of Christopher Marut as the new director of the Taipei office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), following Washington's announcement earlier the same day.

"Marut has served for over 27 years in the U.S. Foreign Service and has developed a deep understanding of Asian affairs, including U.S.-Taiwan relations," MOFA spokesman James Chang told reporters.

The senior diplomat has previously served posts in Taipei, Hong Kong and Beijing and therefore accumulated detailed knowledge about cross-strait relations, Chang said.

The appointment has significant symbolism in terms of bilateral ties, with the decision highlighting Taiwan's role as an important security and economic partner of the U.S., he said.

It is also especially meaningful because the appointment followed U.S. President Barack Obama's recent strategy to pivot his government's attention toward the Asia-Pacific region, Chang said.

Marut is expected to succeed incumbent director William Stanton this August, according to the AIT.

Marut's Qualifications

Downplaying media speculation that the newly appointed AIT director was not "heavyweight enough" to take over the top spot of the de facto U.S. Embassy in Taiwan, Chang yesterday reaffirmed that the appointment was made by U.S. authorities on the basis of "appropriate evaluations."

An earlier local newspaper report cited an anonymous diplomatic source as implying that, compared to his predecessors, Marut is less qualified for the position.

Marut previously served as U.S. Acting Consul General in Hong Kong from August 2009 to March 2010.

His two predecessors, Stephen Young and current Director William Stanton, however, were both ambassador-level senior diplomats before they took the top AIT position in Taiwan, the report said.

The AIT dismissed the report yesterday, saying in a statement that the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong is "one of two U.S. consulates general worldwide that function as independent missions similar to embassies."

Deep Connection to Taiwan

According to the AIT, the senior U.S. diplomat has close relations with Taiwan as he has previously served as a consular officer and science and technology officer at the AIT Taipei office from 1986 to 1989.

Marut and his wife Loretta's two grown children, Carolyn and Kenneth, were both born in Taiwan as well, showcasing the future AIT head's deep personal connection to the country.

His most recent assignment was as director of the Office of Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island Affairs under the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the statement said.

A Taiwanese diplomatic source said yesterday that Marut is a "decent" and "easy to work with" person with a "good reputation" among diplomatic circles in Washington.

Marut was "hand picked" by the U.S. government and is the top and only candidate asked to serve in the post, according to the diplomatic source.

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