U.S. Ambassadors in the News: Iceland, United Kingdom, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, South Korea

ICELAND

UNITED KINGDOM

ESWATINI (SWAZILAND)

ZIMBABWE

SOUTH KOREA

 

@StateDept Senior Leadership “Requests” US Embassy Seoul to Take Down BLM Banner

On June 13, we posted this: US Embassy Seoul Displays Giant #BlackLivesMatter Banner In Support of Fight Against Racial Injustice.
US Embassy Seoul’s BLM banner that went up on Saturday came down on Monday. CNN reports that senior State Department leadership asked the embassy in Seoul to take down the Black Lives Matter sign that Ambassador Harry Harris had hung from the building’s façade . A spokesman for the embassy confirmed to CNN that the large Pride flag has also come down. Via CNN:
“The request from the department’s 7th floor — where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo‘s offices are located — cited as its reason the fact that Black Lives Matter is a non-profit organization and that the US government does not encourage contributions to the group or promote any specific organization, the source said. It is not clear why the Pride flag — which was hung in late May, according to the embassy’s Facebook page — was removed and no explanation has been offered yet.”
According to Bloomberg “on Monday, after the banners were removed, the embassy said that U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris did not intend “to support or encourage donations to any specific organization. To avoid the misperception that American taxpayer dollars were spent to benefit such organizations, he directed that the banner be removed.”

US Embassy Seoul Displays Giant #BlackLivesMatter Banner In Support of Fight Against Racial Injustice

 

@USEmbassySeoul Finally Suspends Routine Visa Services

 

Related to our post of March 16, specific to South Korea:
US Embassy Seoul: We’re told that despite being a Level 3 COVID-19 country with very active community spread for the past few weeks, has continued to do routine NIV visa services and is still doing routine NIV visa services. “Those from epicenter areas are able to walk in like anyone else. No temp checks or additional screenings! Guards are not allowed to turn visibly sick people away. Visa appointments are only down because people aren’t traveling as much. However you can still get an appointment easily for (F, M, J, B) This is also a visa waiver country.”  (Note: South Korea is a CDC Level 3 country, and a State Department Level 3: Reconsider Travel country as of this writing).
(Read more: If your routine visa services are still open during this pandemic, please tell us why)
It looks like the US Embassy in Seoul has now suspended its routine visa appointments effective March 19 (first outbreak of COVID19 in Seoul was reported in late January). On March 18, the State Department announced the suspension of routine visa services in Level 2-4 countries. There are some 108 countries currently on Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions Travel Advisory. There are also Level 1 countries like U.S. Embassy Tashkent in Uzbekistan where posts have suspended their routine visa services; there are COVID19 cases in country and quarantine is in effect).
Below is an excerpt from US Embassy Seoul’s announcement:
“In response to worldwide challenges related to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Department of State is suspending routine visa services in all countries with a level 2, 3, or 4 U.S. Department of State travel advisory.  Accordingly, the U.S. Embassy to the Republic of Korea will cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 19, 2020.  This does not affect the visa waiver program.  Services to U.S. citizens will continue.”
 Link to full statement below.

 

US Embassy Mongolia Now on Voluntary Departure For Non-Emergency Staff/Family Members

 

On February 25, 2020, the Department of State allowed for the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. Government employees and their family members due to travel, transport, and other restrictions related to Mongolia’s response to an outbreak in the neighboring People’s Republic of China of COVID-19 (the “novel coronavirus,” also known as the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2). (see link below).

 

South Korea Travel Advisory Level 3: Reconsider Travel February 29, 2020
Italy Travel Advisory Level 3: Reconsider Travel February 29, 2020
Iran Travel Advisory Level 4: Do Not Travel February 26, 2020
Mongolia Travel Advisory Level 3: Reconsider Travel February 26, 2020
Japan Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution February 22, 2020
Hong Kong Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution February 20, 2020
Macau Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution February 11, 2020
China Travel Advisory Level 4: Do Not Travel February 2, 2020

Was it the Mustache or the $5Billion Demand For U.S. Military Forces #furloughwarning

 

Ambassador Harry Harris was originally nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to Australia in February 2018. The nomination was withdrawn by May 2018 and he was nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea the same month. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 28, 2018  by voice vote. He arrived in Seoul in July that year, and made his first public appearance on July 7, 2018.
As far as we could tell, he’s been sporting that mustache since he arrived in Seoul almost two years ago.  We did not hear about the mustache in 2018, so it has to be more than the mustache when the bad press started in the later part of 2019. If he was pestering the host country to pay up for the cost of U.S. troops in the country, that could do it. He’s not a career diplomat but he was a career military official. That means whatever he’s doing is blessed by his chain of command in Foggy Bottom. Or by the guy talking loudly on Twitter.
So apparently, the United States originally demanded $5 billion in payment for U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. Now it’s down to slightly under a billion or else. Bloomberg is reporting that the USG will send furlough notices within weeks to the base workers if no deal is made.

U.S. officials have indicated they’ve backed off Trump’s initial demand that President Moon Jae-in’s administration pay about $5 billion a year for U.S. forces stationed there, more than five times the $900 million in a stopgap one-year agreement that expired on Dec. 31.[…]U.S. officials say they are required to give those workers 60 days’ advance notice that their pay might be cut off because the last of the funds under the previous deal is running out.

Watch out. This is the same Administration which shut down the Federal Government for 35 days from December 22, 2018 until January 25, 2019 making it the record holder of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.

Nominee/Candidates For U.S. Ambassadorships to Singapore, Austria, and South Korea Withdraw From Consideration

Posted: 3:07 am ET

 

So K.T. McFarland is not going to Singapore. The White House sent its renomination of this candidate to the Senate on January 8, 2018. Last week, Ms. McFarland officially withdrew her name from consideration.

Rumored candidate to Austria also withdrew: Mar-a-Lago member Patrick Park, avid fan of “The Sound of Music” according to the Palm Beach Daily News and rumored as the next ambassador to Austria is no longer in the running (also see Tillerson/Priebus Standoff on Ambassadorships, Plus Rumored Names/Posts (Updated).

Rumored nominee for South Korea Victor Cha is apparently no longer in the running for that post. And there’s a whole lot of reports on why that’s the case. Mr. Cha had not been formally announced as a nominee but widely reported and previously expected to be the nominee for the COM spot in Seoul. The WH is now reportedly calling the snafu as a “vetting issue“. What? They’re just discovering the “issue” now after the USG has already requested/received agrément from the SouthKorean government?

#


Lonesome Rex to Make Inaugural Trip to Asia Without His Traveling Press?

Posted: 2:37 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’]

 

Secretary Tillerson knew when he took this job that he would be the face and the voice of America to the world. That includes talking to the press, and more importantly answering questions from the press corps. We get that he’s new at this but he better get it together fast; he’s now one of our most prominent public servants, and he cannot continue to evade the press and avoid answering questions without running afoul of one of his three core principles.

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell  has now been escorted twice out of a State Department presser. Reporters were also previously escorted out during the Lavrov-Tillerson meeting in Germany. We betcha when Secretary Tillerson starts talking to the press, reporters would not have to shout their questions during every 30-second photo-op. And now, we’re hearing that Secretary Tillerson is making his inaugural trip to Asia next week. He will be traveling with the new Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the EAP Bureau Susan Thornton who assumed post after Danny Russel’s recent departure.  According to the State Department, Secretary Tillerson will arrive in Tokyo on March 15, continue on to Seoul on March 17, and travel to Beijing on March 18 —  apparently without his traveling press.

Here is the official word on this according to the acting @StateDept spox, Mark Toner:

[W]ith respect to the trip to Asia, we’re still working out the logistics, so I really can’t say specifically or speak definitively, I guess, as to whether we will be able to accommodate any press on the Secretary’s plane. I think we’re all aware that it is a smaller plane for this particular trip. There will, as you know, going to – there will be some U.S. media who will be traveling to the destinations, each destination, and of course, we will do our utmost to support them at those destinations and provide whatever access we can.  And I think going forward, the State Department is doing everything it can to – and will do everything it can to accommodate a contingent of traveling media on board the Secretary’s plane.

Wait, Secretary Tillerson’s minders did not purposely select a smaller plane, did they?  The smaller plane excuse would only really work had Secretary Tillerson traveled with the full press during his trips to Mexico and Germany, then say, hey, can’t this time because we’re forced to use a smaller plane. But in Mexico, Secretary Tillerson reportedly only traveled with press pools, took a small plane and had one writer and one photographer. So this is starting to look like this could be the new normal.  If he can get away with not taking his traveling press this time, are we looking at our top diplomat ditching the press for good in the future?  This is, of course, worrisome coz how are we going to Make America Great Again if we can’t even provide a good size plane for our chief diplomat and his traveling press?

Folks, this doesn’t look good. You need to make this right. And hey, about the milkbox, does he have a favorite color?

#

US Embassy Seoul: Amb @mwlippert Swims With Korean #Triathlon Athletes

Posted: 12:12 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

#

Amb. to Seoul Mark Lippert Gets an F-16 Ride Over South Korean Airspace, DPRK Reacts

Posted: 3:01 am ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

#