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White House Aide Says China Ambassadorship Possible for Aspin

December 20, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. ambassadorship to China is among the new assignments that outgoing Defense Secretary Les Aspin has discussed with President Clinton, White House chief of staff Mack McLarty confirmed Sunday.

″There is truth to the fact that the president and Secretary Aspin discussed the contribution he had made ... and the fact he has experience in the foreign policy area ... and I think that door is open, particularly after Secretary Aspin takes ... a rest,″ McLarty said in a television interview.

Asked specifically on ABC’s ″This Week With David Brinkley″ whether ″the door to China is open,″ McLarty replied: ″A door to a number of opportunities in this administration, perhaps including that one.″

Aspin resigned his Pentagon post last Wednesday, citing personal reasons without elaboration. However, administration officials have said Clinton forced Aspin to quit because of displeasure over his leadership style and public comments at odds with White House views, among other reasons.

Clinton has chosen former intelligence official Bobby Ray Inman, a retired Navy admiral, to replace Aspin, whose resignation is effective Jan. 20.

The president, in discussing the departure Wednesday, told Aspin: ″I hope that after you have taken the break you have requested, you will consider other important assignments that you would find challenging and personally rewarding.″

Before joining the administration this year, Aspin had served in the House for nearly two decades, serving as chairman of the Armed Services Committee since 1985.

ABC first reported the possibility of Aspin becoming ambassador to China, and a senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press on Saturday: ″Aspin could have his choice between a number of administration positions. I won’t rule out that ambassador to China is one of them.″

The current ambassador to China is Stapleton Roy, a career foreign service officer sent to Beijing more than two years ago by President Bush.

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