President Donald Trump today announced his intent to nominate Adm. Harry Harris, the head of U.S. Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith, to be the next ambassador to Australia.
The White House announcement said Harris is a “highly decorated, combat-proven Naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership and geo-political expertise in the Indo-Pacific region.”
Harris is a hardliner against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea and has frequently faced the wrath of Beijing over his criticism of the rising Asian nation’s territorial claims and island-building in the disputed region.
About $3 trillion in trade passes through the South China sea annually, and the United States is concerned about China’s attempts to control ship and air passage through the area.
China will be unhappy about Trump’s decision to appoint Harris ambassador to Australia.
Australia, meanwhile, has been frustrated that the United States has not had an ambassador to that country since September 2016.
Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum in Honolulu, a subsidiary of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously said Harris would be welcomed down under.
“I can tell you that all the folks in Australia that I deal with, primarily the security community, are delighted with the prospect of Adm. Harris going there,” Cossa said. “While some have been grumbling about not having a U.S. ambassador yet, they all believe Harry would be well worth waiting for.”
The White House said Harris, a 1978 U.S. Naval Academy graduate and flight officer, earned an M.P.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, an M.A. from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and attended Oxford University.
“During his 39-year career, he served in every geographic combatant command and has held seven command assignments, including the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and the U.S. Sixth Fleet,” the White House said.