President Donald Trump officially nominated Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., to be ambassador to South Korea, rescinding his previous nomination to lead the embassy in Canberra, Australia, on Wednesday, a move signaling Trump will continue adopting a strong stance against China’s militarization of the region.
The announcement came shortly before President Trump announced he would no longer meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12, as Pyongyang’s rhetoric had become too hostile and unreasonable to dignify such a summit.
The president nominated Harris in February to be the Ambassador to Australia but, on Wednesday, he sent a notice to the Senate that he was withdrawing Harris’s name for the Australian post and instead wants to send him to South Korea at a time when diplomacy could mean the end of a nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula.
The Oxford- and Harvard-educated Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, has a distinguished military career and has served in every geographic combatant command region and participated in major U.S. military operations, including the S.S. Achille Lauro terrorist hijacking response, Attain Document III, Earnest Will, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Willing Spirit, and Odyssey Dawn.
He is the first Navy flyer to achieve four-star rank, is the recipient of numerous distinguished awards, and has been honored by the governments of France, South Korea, Japan, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Singapore.
The New York Times reported in April that Harris might be heading to Seoul instead of Australia and that he has strong opinions on North Korea:
Admiral Harris has previously made clear he believes that the biggest threat to the Asia-Pacific region is North Korea.
“Our most volatile and dangerous threat is North Korea, with its quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them intercontinentally,” he said during a 2014 Senate confirmation hearing for his admiral’s post.
“Our collective efforts amid the challenges,” he said, “underscore the importance of America remaining strong and engaged in the region.” He continued, “American leadership does matter.”
The Times noted that as head of the Pacific Command, he oversees some 375,000 military and civilian personnel and has conducted operations in a region that covers more than 100 million square miles, “or more than half of the earth’s surface.”
As Breitbart News reported when the president nominated Harris to represent the U.S. in Australia, the admiral has consistently presented a clear stance on the threat China poses.
Given China’s increasing efforts to expand its presence in the disputed South China Sea, constructing illegal artificial islands in territory belonging to neighboring countries, the appointment of Admiral Harris sends a message that the U.S. is keen to remain engaged with its key allies in the area and it has no intention of backing away from any future possibility of conflict.
The Asian power’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea was once called by Admiral Harris the “Great Wall of Sand.”
In April last year, during testimony to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, he did not hesitate to take China to task for its global ambitions. Often described as a China hawk, he told the committee China has fundamentally altered the physical and political landscape in the South China Sea through large-scale land reclamation and by militarizing these reclaimed features.
“The Trump administration hopes to have Admiral Harris in Seoul by May or June, after hearings that could come in the next two weeks,” the New York Times reported.
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