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Sonia Brady named envoy to China

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III named a veteran diplomat as the country’s ambassador to China amid a tense standoff over disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a presidential spokesperson said Saturday.

Sonia C. Brady, 70, who served as ambassador to Beijing from 2006 to 2010, was named to her old post amid a growing clamor for a skilled diplomat to handle the frayed ties with China caused by the territorial dispute.

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The President wanted “someone who is already familiar with the politics and the culture of that country. That person can hit the ground running,” said spokesperson Abigail Valte.

“Given the complexities of our relationship with China right now, it has to really be somebody who is the best we can produce,” Mr. Aquino said in an earlier interview when asked about his search for a new ambassador to China.

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Brady, however cannot assume the post until Congress approves her appointment.

President Aquino’s last nominee to the post, family friend Domingo Lee, went through a rough time in the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA) despite the urgent need for a diplomatic representative in Beijing, given the territorial issues in the region. Congress refused to approve the posting, saying that Lee was inexperienced.

Lee opted out after the CA again deferred his appointment before Congress went on recess. He has since been appointed special envoy to China for tourism.

Another special envoy to China, Cesar Zalamea, is in charge of trade affairs.

“Brady has been to China. We expect her to use her experience and contacts to provide added insight and understanding of Chinese actions and policies,” said Secretary Ricky Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

The career appointment came in the wake of the country’s protests over Chinese incursions into undisputed Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea. There is also that standoff between the Philippines and China over the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales.

Relations between the two countries worsened after Chinese ships blocked Philippine vessels from arresting Chinese fishermen in April.

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Both countries have deployed vessels near the disputed Panatag Shoal for more than a month to press their conflicting claims to the area.

China claims the shoal along with most of the West Philippine Sea, even up to the coasts of its Asian neighbors, while the Philippines claims the shoal as being well within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

As ambassador to Beijing, Brady has concurrent jurisdiction over North Korea and Mongolia.

Brady has been an adviser on foreign affairs since Aug. 19, 2011. She was foreign affairs undersecretary for policy from 2003 to 2006.

No stranger to China, she also served as third secretary and vice consul and was later second secretary and consul from 1976 to 1978.

She was also a special assistant before becoming an assistant secretary in the Department of Foreign Affair’s Office of Policy and Coordination from 1999 to 2002.

Brady was a director in the Office of the Asia Pacific from 1988 to 1992 and had been assigned to the Office of Political Affairs from 1968 to 1976.

The career diplomat from Quezon has a degree in journalism from the University of Santo Tomas, from which she graduated magna cum laude in 1962. She earned her foreign-service degree at the University of the Philippines a year later.

She obtained a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Southern California in 1987. With an AFP report

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TAGS: Ambassador to Beijing, Ambassador to China, Sonia C. Brady, West Philippine Sea
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