U.S. ambassador post to be filled by UN sanctions enforcer
U.S. President Joe Biden nominated Philip Goldberg, a career ambassador serving in Colombia, as the next American ambassador to Korea, the White House said Friday.
“Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to serve as key diplomats in his administration,” the White House statement read. “Philip S. Goldberg, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Korea, [and] Carrin F. Patman, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Iceland.”
The nomination has been talked about by media outlets for weeks after word first got out in late January, especially because the nomination comes after a year-long vacancy of the post in Seoul.
The longest time for the position to ever be left vacant was around one and a half years, between the tenure of former U.S. Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert and Ambassador Harry Harris. Harris left the post in January, and Charge d’Affaires Christopher Del Corso has been heading the mission since July.
Goldberg’s background as an enforcer of the UN sanctions on North Korea was especially highlighted in the reports, as his appointment, if finalized, will come on the heels of flurries of missiles and weapons tests by North Korea in January.
Goldberg was the U.S. coordinator for the implementation of UN sanctions on North Korea from 2009 to 2010, during the Barack Obama administration.
Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong welcomed the news on Friday.
“We hope he will begin his posting as soon as possible,” said Chung in speaking with the press in Hawaii on Friday. “He is an experienced diplomat and many have high hopes.”
Chung was in Hawaii from Friday to Sunday to meet with his American and Japanese counterparts to discuss the North Korean missile tests and other regional issues.
With the diplomatic agrément from the Korean government, Goldberg will be questioned by the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. Once his nomination is approved by the Senate, he can submit his credentials to the Korean government and begin his work in Seoul.
As this process usually takes two to three months, it is likely Goldberg will begin his tenure in Seoul after the March 9 presidential election that will put a new president in office for the next five years.
Goldberg is a career ambassador, the highest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service, having served as ambassador to the Philippines and Bolivia before heading the mission in Colombia. He was assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 2010 to 2013, and before that, the coordinator for the implementation of UN sanctions on North Korea from 2009 to 2010.
The U.S. government has given some 60 diplomats the title of career ambassador, which means they met a number of requirements including serving at least 15 years in a position of responsibility in a government agency and rendering exceptionally distinguished service to the government, according to the State Department. The president nominates ambassadors as career ambassadors, and the Senate confirms the nominations.
His experiences as a negotiator date back to the Dayton Peace Conference, which put an end to the Bosnian War in 1995. As a special assistant to top negotiator and ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Goldberg was a member of the American negotiating team in the lead-up to the peace conference and chief of staff for the American delegation.
If Goldberg is appointed ambassador to Korea, it will be the first time in seven years that a career diplomat takes the top job in Seoul. Lippert was chief of staff to the secretary of defense at the time of his nomination and Harris the head of the U.S. Pacific Command before he was named ambassador.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]