Pompeo wants to switch Australia ambassador pick to South Korea

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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she had been informed of the decision by Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan on Tuesday.

Another source with knowledge of the situation said President Donald Trump's nominee to be secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had asked Harris to take the post in Seoul, which has been vacant since Trump took office in January previous year.

The Washingon Post says Harris has "already told Pompeo he is willing to switch roles and serve in South Korea".

Why has the Trump administration decided that Harris, the outgoing commander of USA forces in the Pacific, is suddenly an indispensable presence on the Korean peninsula?

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"And while Admiral Harris would be a capable, talented and effective nominee for either post, the process by which the administration has handled the nominations for our ambassadors to Korea and now Australia ... risks doing grave damage to vital alliance relationships and United States posture and standing throughout the region". Pompeo met Kim Jong-un over Easter to prepare for the historic summit in coming weeks.

However, Andrew Shearer, senior adviser on Asia-Pacific Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it was hard to avoid the impression Australia was being treated as a "second-class ally".

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said a decision by the U.S. to pull its incoming ambassador to Australia shows the Trump administration considers this country a "second-class ally".

It was confirmed earlier today Admiral Harris would instead be posted to South Korea as an envoy.

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When the Trump administration nominated Harris as Australian ambassador in February it was warmly welcomed by the Turnbull government.

Charge d'Affaires Mark Knapper has been leading the US Embassy in South Korea, but Trump has faced criticism for not filling the ambassador position there.

While he has a background and interest in US-Australian affairs, he has less experience with North Korea and South Korea, despite numerous visits to the latter as part of his PACOM duties.

Harris has also watched as an increasingly assertive China has pursued a more muscular military posture in the Pacific and established a military presence on man-made islands in areas the United States and its allies contend are worldwide waters. His potential confirmation as South Korea ambassador will still take time, however, in part because of the need for more vetting.

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