Brent Christensen announced as new AIT director

Brent Christensen (CNA file photo)

Taipei, June 27 (CNA) Brent Christensen, a diplomat with experience in senior positions related to Taiwan and China, will be the new director of the American Institute in Taiwan’s (AIT) Taipei office, the AIT formally announced Wednesday in a statement.

Local media had reported earlier in the month that Christensen, who has nearly 30 years of diplomatic experience, would be appointed to succeed the departing director, Kin Moy, this summer.

Moy, the first Chinese-American to hold the post of AIT director, has served in the position since June 2015. The AIT serves as the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

Taiwan’s government welcomed the selection, calling Christensen, the AIT’s deputy director from 2012 to 2015, a perfect choice as he is familiar with Taiwan-related issues and has made significant contributions in promoting closer ties.

Taiwan hopes the veteran diplomat will continue to lead the AIT in enhancing even closer cooperation between the two sides based on the solid foundation laid down by his predecessors, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Christensen served as the director of the State Department’s Office of Taiwan Coordination from 2010 to 2012, where he had a primary role in formulating U.S. policy toward Taiwan, according to the ministry’s statement.

During his tenure as deputy AIT chief in Taipei, Christensen helped achieve several important milestones in Taiwan-U.S. relations, including the nation’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the ministry said.

He also facilitated the visits of high-level U.S. officials to Taiwan, including the trip of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy in 2014.

McCarthy’s trip was the first such visit by a U.S. Cabinet official since 2000, and no other Cabinet-level officials have visited Taiwan since.

Christensen was previously awarded the Friendship Medal of Diplomacy by MOFA in recognition of his contributions to bilateral relations when he stepped down from his AIT deputy head post in 2015.

According to the AIT, Christensen has also served as a senior level career development advisor in the State Department’s Human Resources Bureau. Prior to that assignment, he served as the foreign policy advisor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS).

A career member of the Senior Foreign Service and holder of the personal rank of minister-counselor, Christensen also served as a Congressional Fellow on the staff of Senator Olympia Snowe. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force.

He has an M.A. in East Asian Studies from George Washington University, a B.A. in Chinese language and literature from Brigham Young University, and a DMD degree from Oregon Health and Sciences University.

A native of Provo, Utah, he is married to Brenda Barrus Christensen and has three children.

(By Joseph Yeh)