WASHINGTON – President Trump is considering tapping an admiral as the new U.S. ambassador to Australia, according to a report.
Trump is considering Adm. Harry Harris, the current commander of U.S. Pacific Command who has been outspoken on China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in East Asia, according to the Washington Post on Tuesday.
The post claims former White House chief strategist and Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon backs the move. Asia experts also supported the potential appointment.
“Admiral Harris is a frequent visitor to Australia. He’s well-known to Australians, highly respected. I’m sure his appointment would be welcomed by both sides of politics,” Andrew Shearer, senior adviser on Asia-Pacific security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Post. “He’s a straight talking, engaging kind of bloke and that’s how Australians like it.”
“Australia is grappling with some of the issues involved in China’s rise and is looking for reassurance from the United States in that context,” Shearer added. “Harris knows us, he knows our region, and he knows the issues we are grappling with. That would certainly be an advantage.”
The Post reported previously that the Chinese government had asked the incoming Trump administration to cut Harris’ tour at Pacom short, but the administration did not comply.
The potential appointment comes as the White House faces criticism for not filling top Asia roles in the government as it confronts North Korea. This year, Pyongyang launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile test, followed by another, a major milestone for its nuclear program.
The White House is also planning to name former Bush official Victor Cha as the next U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Reuters reported Tuesday.
An administration official told Reuters the move has “been in the works for a long time.”
Cha is currently the Korea Chair at CSIS and director of Asian studies at Georgetown University’s Department of Government and School of Foreign Service.