- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (AP) - A new commander took over as the top U.S. military officer in the Asia-Pacific region during a ceremony Wednesday.

Adm. Harry Harris replaced Adm. Samuel Locklear as the head of the U.S. Pacific Command. Locklear retired after a 43-year career in the Navy.

Harris moved over from the U.S. Pacific Fleet, which he led since October 2013. The Naval Academy graduate has a background as a naval flight officer on reconnaissance and patrol aircraft.

“There’s no shortage of challenges that confront us,” Harris told a crowd of about a thousand people gathered on a Pearl Harbor pier for the ceremony. In particular, he pointed to North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles and China’s claims to a large section of the South China Sea and its land reclamation activities there. He also mentioned a “resurgent Russia” and Rohingya migrants from Myanmar in the Indian Ocean.

“This is hard work, but it’s what we live for,” Harris said.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who attended the ceremony while stopping in Hawaii on his way to Singapore, noted Harris’ father was a Navy chief petty officer on the USS Lexington aircraft carrier, which left Pearl Harbor a few days before the Japanese bombing in 1941.

“Throughout Harry’s career, he’s dedicated to making himself to making certain that we are never surprised again,” Carter said.

Adm. Scott Swift, who most recently served as the director of the Navy staff at the Pentagon, took command of the Pacific Fleet from Harris at the same event.

More than 300,000 troops are assigned to the Pacific Command’s area, which stretches from the U.S. West Coast to the western border of India.

The command encompasses 200 Pacific Fleet ships and 300 aircraft assigned to Pacific Air Forces. Also included are two Marine Expeditionary Force units and 60,000 Army personnel.

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