The Cable

It’s official: Mitchell named Burma envoy, Bader leaving White House

The White House announced today that Derek Mitchell will be nominated to become the United States’ first Special Envoy to Burma, the latest in a series of shifts in President Barack Obama’s senior Asia policy team. The Cable first reported that Mitchell was to be named for the post on April 1. He currently serves ...

The White House announced today that Derek Mitchell will be nominated to become the United States’ first Special Envoy to Burma, the latest in a series of shifts in President Barack Obama’s senior Asia policy team.

The Cable first reported that Mitchell was to be named for the post on April 1. He currently serves deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs. A well-respected Asia hand who was a foreign policy advisor to the Obama campaign, he will be charged with reinvigorating Washington’s Burma policy and being the country’s main interlocutor with the country’s ruling junta. According to the bio released by the White House, in addition to his many academic and government posts, Mitchell was also once a reporter for the China Post in Taiwan.

His move is only one piece of the quickly changing puzzle that is Obama’s Asia policy team. Friday marks the last day for Jeff Bader as the National Security Council’s senior director for Asia. The Cable first reported that Bader was headed for the exit in January. Later that month, in a video conference with Chinese bloggers, Bader called our report "foolish, wrong, and stupid." He returns to the Brookings Institution after taking two weeks off for vacation.

Other top Asia officials that have recently announced they are leaving the administration soon are Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who has been hugely influential on Obama’s Asia policy, Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs Chip Gregson, who has already left the Pentagon.

That leaves Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell as the longest serving senior administration official dealing with Asia, although the New York Times article on Bader, sourced from the White House, argues that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon will be the "key administration figure on China."

Regardless, a game of musical chairs in the administration’s Asia team is already underway. Bader will be replaced by the NSC’s Daniel Russel, not really a China hand but a well respected bureaucrat with lots of regional experience. Former NSC Chief of Staff Mark Lippert was rumored to be replacing Gregson, but now that nomination seems to be stalled inside the bureaucracy¸ according to administration sources

Underneath Campbell, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Joe Donovan is expected to be named Ambassador to South Korea, replacing Kathy Stephens, who is finishing out a long tour. The White House is rumored to be considering a more political (read: fundraiser) choice for the Seoul post, which would break the tradition of having a foreign-service officer there. In that case, Donovan would likely be offered the ambassadorship in Cambodia.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for China David Shear left Foggy Bottom to become ambassador to Vietnam and Kin M. Moy is expected to replace him, according to Chris Nelson of the Nelson Report. Nelson describes Moy as "a respected ‘younger generation’ China expert currently serving in Clinton’s secretariat on the 7th Floor." Nelson also reports that the Asia Foundation’s Phil Yun will be named to replace Mitchell.

The White House also announced today the nominations of Stuart Jones as ambassador to Jordan, Jonathan Farrar as ambassador to Nicaragua, and Lisa Kubiske as ambassador to Honduras.

 Twitter: @joshrogin

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