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March 30 - James Mulvenon, a defense contractorwho helped land Chinese semiconductor giant SMIC on a U.S.blacklist last year, has been interviewed for a key position atthe U.S. Department of Commerce, according to a person familiarwith the matter.
It is unclear whether the interview with newly confirmedU.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will lead to vetting forthe post, said the person, who asked to remain anonymous tospeak candidly.
It is also unclear how many other people will be interviewedfor the job: undersecretary for the department's Bureau ofIndustry and Security, an agency at the heart of a battlebetween the United States and China over technology. .
The Commerce Department and White House declined to comment.
Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce official, has been seen as alikely candidate for the post. Wolf spearheaded the blacklistingof China's ZTE Corp during the Obama administration and isrenowned for his knowledge of export regulations.
But some have painted Wolf as too close to industry, acriticism others view as specious. The criticism stems from hiswork as a partner at a Washington law firm, counseling U.S.companies on export control issues.
Mulvenon said he was drafted as an alternative candidate.
"A group of people came to me and said, 'We think some ofthe leading candidates are sort of old-think,' ...and 'Would youconsider being sort of a dark horse, sort of push things along abit?" Mulvenon told Reuters last month, declining to identifythe people.
At the time, Mulvenon said no one in the administration hadcontacted him and that he had a "single digit percentagechance."
A Chinese linguist and military expert, Mulvenon is directorof intelligence integration at SOS International, a governmentservices company.
In August, he produced a report on SMIC's alleged militaryties that circulated among Trump officials, and the chipmakerended up blacklisted. SMIC has denied the ties and said it makeschips solely for commercial use.
In late January, Mulvenon wrote an online article titled, "AWorld Divided," that said the bureau should place U.S. interestsahead of near-term financial interests of Silicon Valley, WallStreet and other multinationals.
Wolf, who served as an assistant secretary of Commerce whenZTE was blacklisted, also represented the department in theCommittee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
Former Commerce undersecretary Eric Hirschhorn said Wolfwas quite "clear-eyed and hardline on China" when he workedunder him for seven years.
"He knows export controls backwards and forwards,"Hirschhorn added. "Someone who has to learn the ropes is goingto lose a year at least trying to figure out how it works." REUTERS