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Obama names North Korea expert as ambassador to Philippines

In this Dec. 8, 2014 photo, State Department official Sung Kim addresses international media in Tokyo, Japan. Kim served as special representative for North Korea policy. State Dept./William Ng/Released

MANILA, Philippines — President Barack Obama on Thursday announced his intent to nominate a new ambassador to the Philippines to replace Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

In a statement released by the White House listing new names in key administration posts, Obama nominated senior diplomat Sung Kim, who served as special representative for North Korea policy since 2014, to serve as his representative in the Philippines. Kim's nomination still has to be confirmed by the US Senate.

"I am pleased to announce that these experienced and committed individuals have decided to serve our country.  I look forward to working with them," Obama said.

Kim was the ambassador to South Korea from 2011 to 2014, after he worked as special envoy for the Six Party Talks from 2008 to 2011.

Prior to becoming ambassador and a State department official, Kim, a career diplomat, was the political-military chief at the US Embassy in Seoul from 2002 to 2006.

The nomination for appointment came after Obama spoke over the phone with outgoing Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who is to become the Philippines's president next month. The two leaders reaffirmed the US-Philippines alliance, while Duterte informed Obama of his plan to revive bilateral talks with China over the South China Sea dispute.

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The US has lauded the Philippines's resort to arbitration through a United Nations tribunal in The Hague, saying it was a peaceful channel to address the longstanding maritime row that threatens peace and stability in the key trade route.

Statements from current US Ambassador Goldberg and Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely last month condemning Duterte's rape joke irked the presidential front-runner, who afterward dared to cut ties with the two countries when he is elected president.

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