US President Donald Trump has named US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris as his pick to serve as the country’s ambassador to Australia.
The naval officer has served in the military for 39 years and is in his seventh command assignment as head of the US Pacific Command, the White House said in a statement.
The White House described Admiral Harris as “a highly-decorated, combat-proven naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership and geo-political expertise in the Indo-Pacific region”.
Last year, he said becoming US ambassador to Australia would be a “cool job” and he was “flattered” to be named a possible candidate for the diplomatic posting.
The US embassy in Canberra has been without a US ambassador for more than a year, with its Charge d’Affaires James Carouso representing US interests in the interim.
It had been speculated Admiral Harris was lined up for the job, and was due to retire at the end of last year, clearing the way for him to take up the post early this year.
But it appeared there had been a setback when his presumed replacement Admiral Scott Swift retired after learning he would not be getting the job — meaning Admiral Harris had to stay on longer than planned.
“I wouldn’t think that this would delay things too much, but it obviously delays it a bit,” former Australian ambassador to Washington Kim Beazley told ABC News last year.
“I would think that, from our point of view, hanging on for Harry Harris, we ought to.”
With military tensions in Asia on the rise, Mr Beazley and other diplomatic veterans view Admiral Harris and his deep defence relationships in the region as highly valuable.
Admiral Harris, who met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last year, is a regular visitor to Australia and is well known to both sides of federal politics.