China factor fabricated to guard Harris’ job

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/17 0:23:39

What happened exactly to Admiral Harry Harris, the head of the US Pacific Command (PACOM)? Japan's Kyodo News reported on May 6 that China's Ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, had requested the Trump administration to fire him, an allegation the Chinese side firmly denied. An opinion piece in the Washington Post denied the allegation, citing a White House official, but another source confirmed the news in the same article.

If Ambassador Cui had such enormous influence to enable him to interfere in the appointment of senior US officials, it would have saved China a lot of trouble. However the claim is too far-fetched, mere speculation based on the West's interventionist logic.

Why would Kyodo News carry such a rumor? The Post article also gave us a hint as it said "the more Harris is attacked by Beijing, the safer he may be in his job." The article went on: "If Trump dumps Harris now, regardless of what Cui did or said, it will look like yet another concession to China …"

The whole story appears to be a media campaign aimed at securing Harris' job. It is more likely that people acted to preserve Harris' position by launching an offensive, fabricating a story that China was plotting to remove Harris. His position could be consolidated under the Trump era if political correctness is linked to protecting him and not compromising to Beijing.

Apparently, it is alluring to take a senior government official job in the US as tacit rules can help officials realize substantial interests after they leave their position. Normally when a new president takes office, a number of civil officials will first be replaced, including ambassadors. Key military officials will also be replaced later.

Harris was appointed PACOM commander in former US president Barack Obama's second term, and was a key implementor of the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy. His predecessor, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, stayed in the post for three years and two months; his predecessor, Admiral Robert F. Willard, was PACOM commander for nearly two and a half years. Both joined and left the post during the Obama administration.

It has been two years since Harris took charge of the Pacific Command in May 2015. He has not reached the average tenure of his two predecessors, but he has experienced a change of president. The new administration is lukewarm on the rebalance to Asia-Pacific strategy, which was his duty to support.

Before speculation concerning Harris' job came out, there was a scandal about the location of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. When Trump claimed that the carrier was sailing to the waters of the Korean Peninsula, the fleet was in fact heading for the Indian Ocean. It suggests a lack of communication between the White House and its military. Finally, Harris took all the responsibility for the mistake.

We do not know the inside story of the scandal. However, shortly after, rumors surfaced that Beijing demanded the Trump administration to fire Harris. This is a strange coincidence. It is quite likely that the news was made up to ensure that Trump would not take his anger out on Harris.

How long Harris will remain in the position is solely decided by the US. We hope that PACOM holds a moderate and friendly attitude toward China. But we know that this doesn't only concern Harris alone.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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