Taiwan’s former envoy to Singapore Vanessa Shih was yesterday sworn in as the country’s new vice foreign minister, making her the youngest female diplomat ever to take up the post.
“I am really glad to be back working at the ministry’s headquarters,” said Shih, 49, during a swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed diplomats held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) headquarters in Taipei.
The senior foreign official said she has so-far spent nearly 80 per cent of her 25-year diplomat career on overseas posts, and is extremely excited to take up a local position. She added that she is looking forward to her new job and pledged to do her best.
Shih is the youngest and the third female vice foreign minister in MOFA history, after Katharine Chang and Elisabeth Chu.
Presiding over yesterday’s ceremony, Foreign minister Timothy Yang praised Shih’s experience and expertise in diplomacy and mass communications, saying these qualities make her a perfect choice for the post.
Shih was promoted because of her “extraordinary performance” in Singapore, including pushing for bilateral free trade talks, formally called the Agreement between Singapore and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Partnership, according to the foreign minister.
Yang said he had personally worked with Shih during his previous post as Taiwan’s representative to Australia and was deeply impressed by her coordination skills and communication abilities.
During her three-year tenure in the city-state, Shih boosted Taiwan-Singapore ties, including enabling more frequent two-way flights, as well as making former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s visit to Taiwan possible, Yang said.
As a vice foreign minister, Shih will be responsible for supervising the ministry’s international communication section and European affairs.
Shih served as head of the now-defunct government Information Office (GIO) prior to her post in Singapore.
Her appointment followed the recent closure of the GIO and the government’s plan to streamline administrative operations. Under the reform plan, a portion of the GIO’s duties will be taken over by the Foreign Ministry in September.
Shih returned to Taiwan earlier this year amid rumours that she offended the Singapore government by making contact with the country’s opposition party and displaying the R.O.C. national flag at an event.
But Shih denied such reports, saying she was summoned back to Taiwan by Yang to take on a domestic assignment.