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Newsline: U.S. to send ambassador to Bolivia for first time in over a decade

The United States intends to send an ambassador to Bolivia to help restore a “normal relationship” between the two countries, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said in a video statement. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bolivia-usa/us-to-send-ambassador-to-bolivia-for-first-time-in-over-a-decade-idUSKBN1ZM2FL) The move, which would mark the return of a U.S. ambassador to La Paz for the first time in over a decade, underscores rapidly improving relations since the current interim government took over after the resignation of leftist leader Evo Morales. The United States has had a lower-ranking diplomat in the South American country since Morales ordered the last ambassador Philip Goldberg to leave in 2008, blaming him for opposition protests against his rule.

Newsline: US diplomatic staffer in Colombia is missing and presumed dead

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that an American staffer from the US Mission in Colombia is missing and presumed dead after a boating accident over the weekend. The top US diplomat, speaking alongside the Colombian president in Bogota, said the boating accident occurred on Saturday and that other government personnel had been involved. Some were rescued with “modest injuries” and one was airlifted to the US for treatment, Pompeo said. The missing worker’s next of kin had been notified, Pompeo said, but they were withholding the individual’s name for privacy considerations. A spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told CNN that the employee was “on temporary assignment to the US Embassy in Bogota” and was “engaging in tourist activities in Cartagena” when the boating accident occurred. (https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/20/politics/us-mission-colombia-worker-dead-boating-accident/index.html) Colombian President Ivan Duque expressed his condolences over the accident. He said Navy, Coast Guard and local services were participating in search efforts for the body of the missing worker. According to a press release from the Colombian navy, the accident occurred near the Rosario Islands, off the coast of Cartagena. 11 of the 12 passengers in the boat were rescued, the release said.

Newsline: Three rockets fall near US embassy in Iraq

Three rockets have fallen inside Baghdad’s Green Zone on Tuesday morning, close to the US embassy. A BBC reporter said alarms were sounding in the US embassy complex and speakers were telling those inside to take shelter. Iraqi police told Reuters that three Katyusha rockets fell inside the Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign missions. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/20/three-rockets-fall-us-embassy-iraq-baghdad) The rockets were launched from the Zafaraniyah district outside Baghdad, the sources said, adding that two rockets landed near the US embassy.

Newsline: South Koreans are flipping out over US ambassador’s mustache

It might just be the most bizarre criticism of a US ambassador in recent memory. Harry Harris, Washington’s envoy to South Korea, has been subjected to heated vitriol on social media and by anonymous netizens for his mustache. That small piece of facial hair has, as Harris put it, “for some reason become a point of some fascination here in the media.” “If you watch social media it’s all out there,” Harris, the former head of US Pacific Forces, told reporters.(https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/17/asia/harry-harris-mustache-intl-hnk/index.html) On the surface, the critiques border on ridiculousness. It’s just a small patch of hair. But Harris’ ‘stache has sparked discussions on topics much bigger than the ambassador himself: the still-raw emotions among many Koreans about the legacy of Japanese occupation; the prevalence of racism in such a homogenous society; and cracks appearing in the future of the decades-old alliance between Seoul and Washington as the two sides attempt to reach a deal on how to cover the cost of US troops stationed in South Korea, amid reports that President Donald Trump demanded a 400% pay increase. The gist of the criticism is that with the mustache, Harris resembles the reviled Japanese leaders who ruled the Korean Peninsula with an iron fist during the Japanese occupation. Some of Japan’s most prominent wartime leaders — like Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister who was later executed by a postwar tribunal, and Emperor Hirohito — had mustaches. Under Japanese rule, many Koreans were brutalized, murdered and enslaved. It’s still living memory for elderly Koreans and remains a highly emotive subject in both North and South Korea.

Newsline: South Korea president’s office reprimands U.S. ambassador for remarks

South Korea’s presidential Blue House rebuked U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris on Friday for making “inappropriate remarks” to Seoul’s foreign press pool regarding inter-Korea cooperation. In a meeting with local reporters, a Blue House official said Harris’ remarks on North-South projects, including Seoul’s proposal to allow South Koreans to travel individually to the North, are not suitable for the top U.S. envoy to Seoul, Seoul Shinmun reported. “For an ambassador to make a public comment on the host country’s president’s statement before the media is extremely inappropriate,” the Blue House representative said Friday. “The issue of inter-Korea cooperation is a decision for the Korean government.” (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2020/01/17/South-Korea-presidents-office-reprimands-US-ambassador-for-remarks/9131579220647/) On Thursday Harris had said South Korea’s North Korea initiatives “should be done in consultation with the United States.”

Newsline: U.S. Ambassador Was Under Surveillance In Ukraine

A lawyer for former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch is calling for an investigation after materials released Tuesday night as part of the impeachment inquiry suggested she was under surveillance by individuals linked to President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. (https://www.npr.org/2020/01/15/796593183/new-lev-parnas-documents-suggest-u-s-ambassador-was-under-surveillance-in-ukrain) That detail was among a trove of documents provided by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas that were made public by the House Intelligence Committee late Tuesday. The House impeached Trump last month for abuse of office and obstruction of Congress, and lawmakers will vote today to send those two articles to the Senate, where a trial is likely to open next week. The records provided by Parnas, who has been indicted in New York for alleged campaign finance violations, add to the evidence already released documenting Giuliani’s efforts to get the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to publicly announce an investigation related to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had ties to a Ukrainian energy company.

Newsline: Trump claims 4 US embassies targeted

President Donald Trump said Friday that the threat of “imminent attacks” his administration has cited as justification for killing a top Iranian general including “four embassies,” including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, again adding new details to his account without offering more specifics and raising new questions about the immediacy of the threat. (https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-offers-iran-account-now-embassies-targeted-specifics/story?id=681968510) He made the comment in an interview with Fox News released after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters earlier Friday that the attacks were “against American facilities, including American embassies, military bases, American facilities throughout the region.” Trump told Fox News “that probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad.” He added, “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.” The drip of details followed days of administration officials facing questions about whether the “imminent attacks” initially cited by the president when he announced the U.S. had killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani were actually “imminent” and what exactly the targets were. Trump and the Defense Department provided no details or evidence of the attacks or their immediacy in initially announcing the strike, only sharing more details amid a week of questioning from reporters and members of Congress. Several U.S. senators have said the information the administration has shared with them has been inadequate — and that it has not gone even as far as what the president and his advisers have said publicly.