Admiral Harry Harris Nominated as US Ambassador to Australia

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by Karin Silitonga
Adm. Harry Harris (right), along with Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, meets with Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Australian Chief of Defense in October 2015. (Source: Department of Defense)

Last month, President Donald J. Trump announced his nomination of Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. for US Ambassador to Australia. This nomination is timely, as the position has not been filled since the departure of Ambassador John Berry in September 2016. Harris’ nomination was welcomed warmly by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who, along with an extensive delegation, visited Washington DC in late February to meet with Trump and strengthen economic and security ties between the two countries.

Harris graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1978, and currently serves as 24th Commander of US Pacific Command. He has served in every geographic combatant command region, having spent 39 years in the Navy, and participated in a number of major operations. Born to a Japanese mother and an American father, Harris is the first Asian American to achieve the rank of admiral in the US Navy. In his role, Harris has paid frequent visits to Australia, during which he emphasized the importance of the Australia-US strategic alliance, and shared his commitment to deepening US defense relations with Australia. The decorated Naval officer also met with Turnbull in 2017 during the prime minister’s visit to New York.

The United States and Australia have shared significant historical ties, with a formal alliance formed through the signing of the Australia-New Zealand-US (ANZUS) Treaty in 1951, and Australia serving alongside the United States in every major US military conflict in the last century. The two countries also celebrated their 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2015.  An economic partnership was forged in 2005 with the Australia United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), and Australian investment in the United States totaled over $480 billion in 2016.

 The East-West Center in Washington’s publication Australia Matters for America/America Matters for Australia showcases the strong relations between the two countries, demonstrated through various areas including trade and investment, sister-city partnerships, and demographic ties.

Karunia "Karin" Silitonga is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of Baylor University.