Malcolm Turnbull and the United States’ stand-in for ambassador to Australia have both said they are “disappointed” that admiral Harry Harris will not be coming to take the role permanently.
Turnbull and the US charge d’affaires, James Carouso, have both sought to downplay claims that the Trump administration’s decision to redirect Harris to represent the US in South Korea amounts to treating Australia like a second-class ally.
On Thursday Carouso told ABC News Breakfast it was a “top priority” to bring a US ambassador to Australia but conceded that “we are all disappointed” Harris, the head of the US Pacific command, will not fill the role.
He asked Australians to look at the “bigger picture” in Korea, citing upcoming talks between Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to argue that the US needs an ambassador on the ground in South Korea.
Carouso said the US was sending Harris “because of the urgency of the situation in Korea” and applied a positive spin by claiming it “reflects the fact that the United States and Australia have worked together to apply pressure on Korea that has brought us to this point”.
Carouso said Australia’s relationship with the US was “incredibly broad and tight”, citing the fact that ministers can contact their US counterparts and more than 700 Australian officials had visited Washington and vice versa in the last year.
“Australia should have an ambassador here, there is no doubt … I don’t know the exact situation but I have been told this is the top priority to get the next person out here as quickly as possible,” he said.
Turnbull has not spoken to the US president since learning of the decision earlier this week but insists he is unperturbed.
“I’m disappointed that Harry’s not coming because he’s a really good friend, and I think Harry will be disappointed that he’s not coming to Canberra too because he loves Australia,” Turnbull told reporters in France.
“He is a guy of enormous experience and ability and, given the situation on the Korean peninsula, given the tensions there, I can well understand why the president has decided that the admiral’s expertise and experience is going to be able to be put to better use in Korea than in Australia.”
Turnbull praised the “fantastic job” being done by Carouso. The full-time Canberra post has been vacant since September 2016.
“The relationship between Australia and the United States, as you all know as well as I do, that is so deep and so intense and operates at so many levels,” Turnbull said. “The absence, if you like, of an ambassador is not really troubling the very strong relationship we have whatsoever.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, confirmed Harris would not be heading to Canberra after being notified by the acting US secretary of state, John Sullivan.
Bishop said Sullivan made it clear a new appointment to Canberra would be a priority for the next secretary of state.
“Based on the assumption he is confirmed by the Senate this week, I hope to have a conversation with Mike Pompeo as soon as possible,” she said.
Andrew Shearer, a senior policy adviser for the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, has said it is “hard to escape a bit of a sense that Australia is being treated here as a second-class ally”.
A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Thomas Wright, told Fairfax Media the backflip sent a “terrible” and “unfortunate” message because it suggested Australia “is not a priority”.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President
(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.
Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.
Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.
It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.
Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.
Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.
California Governor Formally Appoints Alex Padilla To Fill US Senate Seat Vacated By Kamala Harris
(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to the US Senate today, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
Padilla formally resigned as Secretary of State this morning and Gov. Newsom also submitted his nomination letter for Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace him. The Deputy Secretary of State, James Schwab, will be the Acting Secretary of State.
“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Gov. Newsom.
“I am humbled and honored by your trust in me to represent California in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the great State of California as a United States Senator and to ensuring that the rights and democratic principles we cherish are protected and preserved for all people,” Padilla wrote in a letter to Gov. Newsom.
Some context: Earlier today, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally resigned her seat as one of California’s US Senators. She’ll be inaugurated as vice president on Wednesday, Jan. 20. In a farewell addressed posted to Twitter, Harris said, “Of course, I’m not saying goodbye. In many ways, I’m now saying hello as your vice president.”
U.S. Set To Announce New Sanctions On Six Individuals Linked To Hong Kong Mass Arrests
WASHINGTON, Jan 15 (Reuters) – The United States is set to announce fresh sanctions on Friday on six individuals connected to the mass arrests earlier this month of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, two sources familiar with the matter said.
Hong Kong police on Jan. 5 arrested 53 people in dawn raids on democracy activists in the biggest crackdown since China last year imposed a security law which opponents say is aimed at quashing dissent in the former British colony.
U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo last week warned of fresh sanctions in response to the arrests of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. That warning came a day after supporters of Republican President Donald Trump on Jan. 6 stormed Congress in a bid to overturn his November election defeat, prompting China’s state media to accuse U.S. politicians of “double standards.”
Pompeo also said last week the United States would also explore restrictions against the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the United States.
Action on Friday would come just days before Trump is due to leave office and be succeeded by Democrat Joe Biden next Wednesday and would be the latest in a series targeting China, which analysts see as a bid driven by Pompeo to lock in a tough approach to Beijing.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump has pursued hard-line policies toward China on issues ranging from trade to espionage and the coronavirus. Relations plummeted to their worst level in decades when he ramped up rhetoric in his unsuccessful November re-election campaign.
His administration has already imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for their actions involving the pro-democracy movement and other alleged rights abuses, and last July declared an end to the territory’s privileged economic status under U.S. law.
The Trump administration took another swipe at China and its biggest companies on Thursday, imposing sanctions on officials and companies for alleged misdeeds in the South China Sea and imposing an investment ban on nine more firms.
Last Saturday, Pompeo said he was lifting restrictions on contacts between U.S. officials and counterparts in Taiwan, a move that greatly angered Beijing, which considers the island a renegade province. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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