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Corker Statement at Hearing on Nominations for US Ambassador and Assistant Secretary of State

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today made the following statement during a hearing on nominations for U.S. Ambassador to South Korea and Assistant Secretary of State for both Near Eastern and African Affairs.

“Today we will consider the nominations of individuals to serve our nation in three roles: Ambassador to South Korea, and the positions of Assistant Secretary for both Near Eastern and African Affairs. If confirmed, these individuals will direct our diplomatic efforts over an enormous swath of the globe and will grapple with issues ranging from the Syrian civil war to our ongoing dialogue with North Korea.

“We welcome all of you. We thank you for your willingness to serve and thank your families in the same way.

“We first have David Shenker. Mr. Schenker has extensive personal and professional experience in the Middle East and speaks fluent Arabic. I am confident that Mr. Schenker is well-equipped to balance and promote U.S. interests in the Middle East.

“No region has required more high-level attention than the Middle East, which is home to some of our most vital security partners and also the source of security challenges.

“Countering Iran, combatting terrorism, working to resolve the wars in Syria and Yemen, and reinforcing our regional alliances requires continuous and focused engagement, which is why I am pleased that the administration has nominated David Schenker to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs.

“Next, we have Ambassador Tibor Nagy to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

“The United States has important interests in developing and maintaining strong partnerships with African countries, and we remain committed to supporting those that choose inclusive and responsible governance.

“The Africa bureau must address an extremely large range of diplomatic challenges across the continent with the resources and talent appropriate to our growing expectations of the relationships we have there.

“Finally, we have Mr. Harry Harris - I feel like I know more about you than I even want to know - who just recently retired with the rank of Admiral after completing a highly distinguished career in the United States Navy, to serve as Ambassador to the Republic of Korea.

“The U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance is an important relationship for maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

“During this critical moment on the Korean Peninsula, we require an ambassador in Seoul who will speak frankly about the importance of alliance cohesion, including maintaining the administration’s maximum pressure strategy while pursuing negotiations to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

“I am glad the president and Kim Jong Un were able to have a meeting this week in Singapore, but I look forward to having Secretary Pompeo before our committee soon to share his insights about what of concrete nature has occurred, including the future of security cooperation with Japan and South Korea.

“We need an ambassador who appreciates that the U.S.-South Korea partnership runs deep, including cooperation across a range of political, economic and cultural issues.

“I am confident that Mr. Harris recognizes the value of the relationship between Washington and Seoul and will effectively advocate for strengthening our relationship with this critical ally.”

Click here for complete testimony and video footage from the hearing.