Trump nominates Pacific Command head as ambassador to South Korea

Trump nominates Pacific Command head as ambassador to South Korea
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE on Friday nominated the head of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., as his ambassador to South Korea.

The White House touted Harris's years of experience in the Navy and knowledge of the Indo-Pacific region in announcing his nomination.

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Harris has served in the military for four decades, with seven command assignments including for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the U.S. 6th Fleet and VP-46.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack US-Iran tensions rise: Five things to know about oil tanker attack The US must do its part in closing the largest outdoor prison in the world MORE was rumored last month to be mulling switching Harris, who was initially nominated as Trump's pick to Australia, to instead be his envoy to Seoul.

His nomination comes as the Trump administration continues to prepare for a possible summit between Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un next month in Singapore as part of efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

If confirmed by the Senate, Harris would fill a vacancy that has unsettled some members of Congress and State Department officials.

The position has been open since Trump took office in January 2017 and its responsibilities have been handled for nearly 16 months by Chargé d'Affaires Marc Knapper. The ambassador role has also become increasingly important since Joseph Yun, the special representative for North Korea policy, retired in March. 

Pompeo has vowed to fill a number of lingering vacancies in the State Department. During his confirmation hearing last month, the former CIA director promised lawmakers to work quickly to fill key posts. Earlier this week, he lifted a hiring freeze on the Foreign and Civil services that had been imposed last year by his predecessor, Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonBolton says Russia, China seeking to promote discord in Trump administration Bolton says Russia, China seeking to promote discord in Trump administration Trump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds MORE.

Harris's nomination came days after North Korea abruptly scrapped a planned meeting with South Korea over its joint military exercises with the U.S. Pyongyang also threatened to back out of the June 12 summit with Trump if the U.S. insisted on "unilateral nuclear abandonment."

Max Greenwood contributed to this report, which was updated at 7:21 p.m.