Just what is going

Just what is going on with United States policy in East Asia?

As we’ve discussed at some length already, the post of chief American envoy to Taiwan has remained vacant for months. James Kelly is the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific. And he — others certainly too, but he’s been the most insistent — has been holding out for months to give that job to Douglas H. Paal.

(Kelly, you’ll remember, accused TPM of being a practitioner of “hack journalism.”)

Now there’s another odd development brewing.

Until recently Torkel Patterson was the head of Asia policy at the National Security Council — the official title is “senior director for Asian affairs.” He resigned, rather abruptly, in late January of this year.

Now Patterson is telling friends and colleagues around Washington — and not that discreetly, mind you — that Kelly will be gone from the State Department in the not-too-distant future and that he — Torkel Patterson — will be the new Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.

(The idea, apparently, is a time-frame of a year or maybe less.)

What exactly is going on isn’t completely clear. Certainly not to me, and apparently not to a number of DC Asia hands either. Is Patterson just trying to lay claim to the post after Kelly leaves? Is he trying to muscle Kelly out of his job? Or is he just not that discreet?

It’s not clear. But it is raising a lot of eyebrows.