Top admiral in Asia-Pacific nominated for Australia ambassador

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President Trump has tapped the admiral currently in charge of military operations in the Asia-Pacific to be U.S. ambassador to Australia.

Adm. Harry Harris, one of the most high profile Asian-Americans in the U.S. military, has been commander of Pacific Command since 2015, where he’s earned a reputation as a China hawk.

In a statement announcing his nomination, the White House praised Harris as a “a highly decorated, combat-proven naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership and geo-political expertise in the Indo-Pacific region.”

{mosads}Harris has served in the Navy for 39 years. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1978 and was designated a naval flight officer in 1979.

He took charge of U.S. Pacific Command in May 2015. During the Obama administration, he clashed with administration officials over their handling of China’s buildup in the South China Sea, preferring to take a more hard-line approach.

“In my opinion China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2016. “You’d have to believe in a flat earth to believe otherwise.”

He has also regularly warned that North Korea is the greatest threat in the region. But in face of escalating tensions, he has said diplomacy is the key to resolving the crisis.

“Clearly, while diplomacy must be the main effort with North Korea, it has to be diplomacy backed by credible military power,” Harris said in November.

The Trump administration has been criticized for the slow pace of nominees for ambassadorships, particularly for key allies in the Asia-Pacific region needed to help resolve the North Korea crisis.

Last month, Trump withdrew his first pick for ambassador to South Korea, Victor Cha, reportedly for Cha’s opposition to a so-called bloody nose strategy in which the United States would conducted a limited strike on North Korea with the goal of deterring future military action from Pyongyang.

Tags Austraila Donald Trump East Asia North Korea–South Korea relations South Korea United States Pacific Command

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