Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., of the U.S. Pacific Command, Talks to TIME

On May 27 Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr. becomes the U.S. Navys highest-ranking Asian American ever when he assumes leadership of the U.S. Pacific Command at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Harris will be responsible for all military operations in a region stretching from California to the Indian Ocean, and from the Arctic Sea to An

tarctica. He takes over at a critical time, as the U.S. rebalances to Asia and confronts an erratic and nuclear-armed North Korea and an increasingly powerful and assertive China. Its a job that takes Harris, 59, full circle. He was born in Japan to a Navy-enlisted man and Japanese mother, and raised on a subsistence farm in Tennessee. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Harris did postgraduate studies at Harvard, Georgetown and Oxford and spent much of his career as a naval flight officer aboard P-3 patrol planes, including three tours in Japan. Affable, direct and with a confessed weakness for both kinds of music country and western, Harris talks to TIME contributor Kirk Spitzer about taking on one of the most challenging jobs in the U.S. military. Youve said that the most important event in your life was World War II, yet you werent even born then. What do you mean by that? My dad had four brothers and all of them served in World War II, mostly in the Navy, in the Pacific theater. In fact, my dad was on the aircraft carrier Lexington just a couple of days before Pearl Harbor. They pulled out O.K., but the Lexington was sunk at the Battle of Coral Sea. Growing up in Tennessee, where he and all his brothers lived, they told sea stories about the war throughout my whole life. So I just knew that I was going to serve in the military. Related Stories     2020第80期开码结果开奖记录 

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The other thing is, in this job and living in Hawaii, World War II is all around you. I live in the Nimitz House, which was built for Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. He was in charge on Dec. 7, 1941. So not a day goes by that I dont remember that one of the primary lessons of World War II is to be ready to fight and win the nations wars and to be ready to fight tonight. Youve said that your mother had a great influence on your life. She was born into a wealthy family in Kobe, Japan, but ended up living on a small farm in America. How did that happen, and how much of an influence did she have on you? I learned a lot from her. She lost her home, her school, members of her family and friends to bombing raids. After surviving that, she had nothing and she went to live with an aunt in Yokohama who helped her get a job on the big American naval base in Yokosuka. My dad was posted in Japan and Korea from 1946 until he retired in 1958. They met sometime in the early 1950s and got married and then I came along and they moved to Tennessee. My dad bought a subsistence farm, with no running water or electricity. So that was pretty rough. But she adapted, and she adapted with a lot of grace. She became an American citizen in the mid-1970s and she always told me that her proudest moments were voting and jury duty. She was really thrilled that I went to the Naval Academy, of course. She never taught me the Japanese language because we had moved to a tiny town in the South, and she didnt want me to be any more different than I already was. She wanted me to focus on being an American. But she taught me to be proud of both my Japanese roots and my Southern roots. And she taught me about the Japanese concept of giri, which means duty. I carry this with me to this very day.   You are the first Asian American to reach four-star rank in the Navy and the first to head U.S. Pacific Command. Did you have role models when you were young? I can tell you that being a Japanese-American kid in Tennessee in the late 1950s and early 60s, there werent a lot of role models out there. So thats when my mother started telling me about the American nisei soldiers during World War II. They left a segregated nation to fight for a segregated nation. They had no guarantee that when they got back home the things they had fought for would be returned to them. Weve come a long way in the past six or seven decades because of them and folks like them who fought for whats right. Their courage made a great difference in the lives of a whole bunch of people at that time, and even today. Ive always said that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and I mean it.    Get our Politics Newsletter. Sign up to receive the days most important political stories from Washington and beyond. Thank you! For your security, we've sent a confirmation email to the address you entered. Click the link to confirm your subscription and begin receiving our newsletters. If you don't get the confirmation within 10 minutes, please check your spam folder. Before being named commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in 2013, you worked as a military representative to two Secretaries of State: Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. What did you lear

n in that job? I got to visit and meet with leaders from about 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and thats really important to me in my present job and even more so in my next job. It reinforced something that I already knew, and that is that American leadership matters and it matters greatly to our friends, partners, allies and competitors abroad. Your appointment as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and more recently as head of Pacific Command, was met with great approval in Japan, but perhaps not so much in China, where there still seems suspicion of all things Japanese. Will it be difficult for you to manage expectations, on both sides? People know when they look at me that Im an American first, last and everything in between. Im only ethnically [Eurasian] or ethnically [half-]Japanese. Protecting American interests is my focus. No doubt, Japan is a great ally of the United States and I do hope that my personal background has helped me enhance our relationship. But I think my background has also helped me forge critical relationships with South Korea, another important ally. My father served in the Korean War and I grew up with a deep appreciation for Korean culture. And I can tell you that I was warmly received in China when I went there last year to finalize a new agreement among navies of the region to help communications at sea during unplanned encounters. This was an important step forward to help reduce tensions at sea and help avoid miscalculations. Ive always tried to give China credit when they act in responsible ways that adhere to international law and norms, and enhance stability. Spotlight Story Kobe Bryant Had a Singular Impact on His Game and the World Bryant died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday, along with his daughter Gianna The Obama Administration has talked about an economic, diplomatic and military rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. Some skeptics wonder if its real, or just rhetoric. Not only is the rebalance real, but the military part is well on its way. Weve strengthened our security alliances and partnerships throughout the region. The Navy has already brought our newest and most capable platforms to the area, like the P-8 surveillance airplane, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Virginia-class submarine and new amphibious ships like the U.S.S. America. The Marine Corps has brought the V-22 Osprey out here to great effect and well have the Joint Strike Fighter out here soon. The Navy has set a goal of moving 60% of the Navy out here by 2020 and were at about 55% in terms of surface ships now. So I can tell you the rebalance is real. 

In your new job youll be responsible for an immense and diverse region: From Bollywood to Hollywood, from polar bears to penguins, as Pacific Command puts it. What are your priorities? Our war-fighting readiness, our ability to fight tonight, will always be my top priority. We have to be ready for the unexpected. We have to be ready to prevent strategic surprises. When you are responsible for an area that covers half the worlds surface, you need friends. So building stronger relationships and working with our allies and partners, to foster a collectiv

e to the security challenges thats important. Youve expressed deep concern about recent Chinese actions, including construction of a string of artificial islands in the South China Sea a great wall of sand, as you put it. Why should the U.S. be concerned? I have been critical of China for a pattern of provocative actions that theyve begun in the recent past. Like unilaterally declaring an air-defense identifica

tion zone over the East China Sea, parking a mobile oil platform off the Vietnam coast, and their lack of clarity on their outrageous claim preposterous claim, really to 90% of the South China Sea. All these examples, I think, are inconsistent with international laws and norms. They make Chinas neighbors nervous, it increases tensions in the region, and I think they are destabilizing for peace in the region. Related

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eedom of navigation is critical. Thats why what China is doing in the South China Sea is troubling. They have manufactured land there at a staggering pace just in the last months. Theyve created about 2,000 acres of these man-made islands. Thats equivalent to about 1,500 football fields, if I get my math right, and theyre still going. Theyve also made massive construction projects on artificial islands for what are cle

arly, in my point of view, military purposes, including large airstrips and ports.

What do you worry about most? What keeps you awake at night? The greatest threat we face is North Korea. They have an unpredictable leader who is poised, in my view, to attack our allies in South Korea and Japan. He is on a quest for nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them intercontinentally. He kills people around him who disagree with him, and thats something we should always keep in mind. North Korea keeps me up at night. Most Popular on TIME 1   Coronavirus Death Toll Rises to 170 in China  2 Americans Trapped in Wuhan Angry With U.S.  3 We Can Only Process Kobe Bryant's Death by

Being Honest About His Life  Contact us at editors@time.com.

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