I was saddened to learn of the passing of Ambassador James Lilley, one of our nation’s finest diplomats. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
For decades, Jim helped shape U.S. relations in East Asia. As the Director of the American Institute in Taiwan in the mid-1980s, Jim contributed to the development of our strong unofficial relations. As Ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 1986 to 1989, he helped strengthen the U.S. voice in favor of human rights and democratization, with dramatic results. And as Ambassador to China from 1989 to 1991, one of the most difficult periods in our bilateral relations, he stood up for human rights and ensured the safety of American citizens and Embassy personnel in the months following the Tiananmen Incident.
As I travel through East Asia this week, I see Jim’s legacy in our strong bilateral and regional partnerships, and in the many talented Foreign Service officers he mentored. Jim inspired generations of China hands, and at a time when many were convinced that there was little place for women diplomats in Confucian societies, he supported and encouraged the aspirations of women officers. His integrity, loyalty, and hard work exemplified the best tradition of American statecraft. He will be missed.