USS Fitzgerald collision: Trump criticised for leaving key posts unfilled

Donald Trump has been criticised for delays in appointing a navy secretary and ambassador to Japan, leaving a communications vacuum as the countries continued their search for seven missing sailors off the east coast of Japan.

The commanding officer of the USS Fitzgerald, Bryce Benson, and two other crew were injured after the vessel collided with a Philippine-registered container ship before dawn on Saturday.

The US has been without an ambassador to Japan since Caroline Kennedy left Tokyo in January.

Her successor, the Tennessee businessman William Hagerty, has attended a Senate confirmation hearing but has yet to take up his post.

Brandon Friedman, a former Obama administration official and co-founder of the McPherson Square Group, a strategic communications firm in Washington, pointed to the absence of an ambassador and navy secretary two officials who would be expected to take a lead in liaising between the US navy, and Japanese and US government officials during the search.

The USS Fitzgerald might sink off Japan and the US President cant call our ambassador or our navy secretary because we have neither, Friedman said.

Trumps nominee for US navy secretary, Richard Spencer, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.

The former financial industry executive and US marine corps captain was tapped for the post after Trumps first choice for navy secretary, Philip Bilden, withdrew his candidacy in February.

Bilden said that his business ties to Asian financial markets would constitute a conflict of interests and that he was not prepared to divest his financial interests to serve in the position.

At his Senate hearing last month, Hagerty, a key member of Trumps transition team, stressed Washingtons ironclad commitment to its alliance with Japan, calling it the cornerstone of regional peace and security and a platform for global cooperation.

This commitment is more critical than ever in the face of fast-emerging security challenges, including North Koreas nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs, as well as Chinas assertive behavior in the East and South China seas, Hagerty said.

Others on social media were critical of Trumps silence on the collision, the worst accident involving a US navy vessel in recent years.

One Twitter user asked the president to please comment about the USS Fitzgerald and the 7 sailors that are missing … they deserve a comment from their POTUS.

Another noted Trumps silence, despite his role as commander in chief of US forces.

Two maritime safety experts in the US and Australia told the Guardian that it was too early to speculate over the possible cause of the collision.

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