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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 9)

2018/07/09 07:03

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New US ambassador

Harris' arrival raises expectations for bilateral relations

The post of U.S. ambassador to Korea _ vacant since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017 _ was finally filled with the arrival of Harry Harris, a retired admiral. Harris issued a statement at Incheon International Airport, Saturday, highlighting the history of the strong alliance between the two countries.

Ambassador Harris' arrival comes amid rising concerns about the alliance. The two countries have decided to suspend large-scale joint military exercises scheduled for August after the June 12 U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore. Considering that Trump had sent envoys to Japan and China at the beginning of his term, the delay in picking his representative to Korea was seen by some Koreans as a sign that the U.S. leader did not care as much about the country.

Trump had also made some negative comments regarding Korea during the presidential campaign, including the criticism that Korea was paying "peanuts" for U.S. troops stationed here. Trump has also frequently mentioned his wish to eventually reduce the number of troops.

It has taken an extra long time for Trump to choose his envoy to Korea, but many Koreans are relieved that he has sent someone with the right qualifications to serve in the post at such a critical juncture in Northeast Asia amid the denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea, and active inter-Korean diplomacy.

The former chief of the U.S. Pacific Command has professional and personal ties to Korea that will certainly help him in his new job as well as bonding with Koreans. He is the first Asian-American to hold a four-star rank in the U.S. Navy. In 2014, he was awarded the Order of National Security Merit Tongil Medal by the Ministry of National Defense for strengthening the alliance between the navies of the two countries.

In a Facebook message posted by the U.S. Embassy, Ambassador Harris sent friendly greetings to Koreans and talked about his father, a U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Korean War.

"I remember him telling me about the amazing Koreans he met and how kind they were to him," Harris said. Harris said he had visited Korea countless times and described himself as a "huge fan of Korean food and drink."

   We hope the new U.S. envoy will play an active role in solidifying our alliance during these challenging times and also in bridging the peoples of our two countries.

(END)

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