U.S. President Donald Trump has chosen Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris known for his strident views on Chinas military expansion and nuclear-armed North Korea to be the United States next ambassador to Australia.
The White House announced the move in a statement Friday, calling Harris a highly decorated, combat proven Naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership and geo-political expertise in the Indo-Pacific region and 39 years of experience in the U.S. Navy.
Adm. Harry Harris shakes hands with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a courtesy visit to Tokyo in November. AFP-JIJI
Harris, who was the first Asian-American to achieve the rank of admiral in the U.S. Navy, could play a key role in promoting the Trump administrations strategy for a free and open Indo-Pacific region and ensuring a rules-based regional order in partnership with Japan, India and Australia.
Currently in the final year of his three-year tour as head of Pacific Command, Harris is due to retire soon. He has been known as an outspoken backer of a strong response to Chinas aggressive moves in the East and South China seas, coining the term Great Wall of Sand to describe Beijings strategy of building up and militarizing disputed features in the South China Sea.
He has echoed Trumps maximum pressure strategy for dealing with Pyongyang, saying in November that military-backed diplomacy is needed to deal with North Korea.
Appointing Harris as envoy to Australia will be seen as reassuring a key ally and strengthening the administrations Asia team, which remains full of vacancies more than a year into Trumps first term.
The admiral is known to have strong ties with military and political leaders in the country, having visited several times as head of Pacific Command.
Media reports have painted the Australian government as growing more and more concerned over the 16-month failure to appoint an ambassador after the previous U.S. envoy, John Berry, left the post in September 2016. Although the job has been filled by Charge....