Congratulations to Mark Lippert for being picked as the next US ambassador to South Korea:
Mark Lippert, one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s oldest and closest aides, has been nominated to be the United States’ next ambassador to South Korea.
Multiple diplomatic sources say the U.S. government notified Seoul of the impending announcement during President Obama’s visit to the nation last week.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Lippert will replace the current ambassador, Sung Kim, in the second half of the year. Kim, who’s three-year term is nearing an end, is expected to return to the State Department in September. As for Lippert’s credentials, the 41-year-old is currently Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s chief of staff. At the age of 32, he became the foreign policy advisor to then-Senator Barack Obama.
Four years later he was appointed as National Security Council chief of staff, and in 2012 as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. [Arirang News]
You can read more at the link, but reading Lippert’s biography of note is the fact he joined the Naval reserve in 2005 and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as an intelligence officer. Something that caused some controversy was that while serving on active duty he was accused of still receiving his $147,500 White House salary. He is also accused of having a history of leaking information to the media to discredit rivals. This is supposedly why former Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not want him in the Pentagon and he was moved over there after Chuck Hagel took over:
We’re also told that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was opposed to Lippert’s appointment at the Pentagon and the White House was waiting until Gates was gone. Gates was a staunch defender of Jones and might have held a grudge against Lippert. Also, Gates might have been wary of having someone who is so close to the White House embedded in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, especially one with a history of leaking and insubordination. Republican critics also say he lacks the qualifications for the job of being the Pentagon’s top Asia policy official.
“Lippert is a guy who has no experience working in the Pentagon, no qualifications for leading defense policy on East Asia, and who is super close to the White House,” said one Bush administration Asia official. “Other than that, he’s perfect for the job.” [Foreign Policy]
His East Asia experience is studying Mandarin at Peking University as part of his graduate school program at Stanford and then in 2012 when he became the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs at the Pentagon when Secretary Hagel took over. As far as specific experience with South Korea I have not seen anything. Overall though if you read about him he is a major insider within the Obama administration, which should mean the Korean government will have someone at the US embassy with ready access to the White House.
It is expected that one of Lippert’s biggest tasks will be to try and get South Korea and Japan to better cooperate with each other politically and militarily. Good luck with that.