Trump Taps US Pacific Commander Harris as Ambassador to Australia

February 10, 2018 Updated: February 11, 2018    

WASHINGTON–President Donald Trump on Friday named U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris, who is known for his hawkish views on China’s military expansion, as his pick to serve as the American ambassador to Australia, the White House said in a statement.

The naval officer has served in the military for 39 years and is in his seventh command assignment as head of the U.S. Pacific Command, according to the White House.

A statement from the White House describes him as a “highly decorated, combat proven naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership, and geopolitical expertise in the Indo-Pacific region.”

During Harris’s tenure as head of U.S. forces in the Pacific, tensions over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs increased as President Donald Trump’s administration and Pyongyang exchanged threats.

Harris was appointed to his former role by former President Barack Obama.

Harris is known for his firm views on Beijing’s South China Sea expansion and a strong supporter of freedom of navigation operations under which U.S. ships and aircraft challenge other countries’ maritime claims.

He upset China by dubbing its construction of islands and building-up of military facilities in the South China Sea as a “great wall of sand.”

Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., U.S. Navy Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, left, shades hands with Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission before their meeting at the Bayi Building on Nov. 3, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Andy Wong – Pool /Getty Images)

 

Two U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Harris’s likely replacement was Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

The officials did not comment on when an announcement could be made and any replacement will have to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be leading a delegation of government and business leaders to Washington to hold talks with the Trump administration on Feb. 23.