Harry Harris, once named as US envoy to Australia, has backed suspending war games with South Korea.Harry Harris, the firebrand former head of the US Pacific Command and President Donald Trump’s former nominee to be US ambassador to Australia, has backed an expected pause of US military exercises with South Korea.
The recently retired admiral faced the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington DC on Thursday ahead of his expected confirmation as the next US ambassador to South Korea.
Mr Trump made a surprise switch earlier this year to re-direct Mr Harris from Canberra to Seoul.
Mr Harris last year offered fiery words for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un but told the committee the dictator should be given some “breathing space” after this week’s historic meeting with Mr Trump.
“Following the president’s summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore we are in a dramatically different place,” Mr Harris said.
“The whole landscape has shifted and I believe we should give exercises, major exercises, a pause to see if Kim Jong-un in fact is serious about his part of the negotiations.
“I have spoken in the past about the need to bring Kim Jong-un to his senses, not to his knees, and I think the president’s efforts in Singapore did just that.”
Mr Trump is expected to announce a suspension of major military exercises with South Korea to encourage the North Korean leader to end his nuclear program and denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.
Australia has been without a US ambassador for almost two years, with Mr Harris warmly welcomed by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull when first nominated.
Mr Trump is yet to announce a replacement in Canberra for Mr Harris.
The senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were full of praise for Mr Harris and his expected appointment in Seoul.
“As you know he was first nominated to be ambassador to Australia and I think the fact that this administration decided on this critically important post in South Korea, I think that indicates not only the confidence people have in the four-star admiral but it is also him willing to answer the call of service wherever he is required,” Senator Bill Nelson told the hearing.
Australian Associated Press