John Kerry invents new country of 'Kyrzakhstan' in speech

Secretary of State John Kerry had a slip of the tongue while delivering his first major public address as America's top diplomat.

What do you get when you mix up the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan?

Apparently the new putative country of "Kyrzakhstan," if you're John Kerry, the new U.S. secretary of state.

Kerry, the former Massachusetts senator who started his new post as America's top diplomat three weeks ago, appeared to have confused the two real countries and came up with "Kyrzakhstan" during a speech last week at the University of Virginia.

Kerry was delivering his first major public address on investing in a strong foreign policy. He praised the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development for their work in the "most dangerous places on Earth." Then he went on to say: "They fight corruption in Nigeria. They support the rule of law in Burma. They support democratic institutions in Kyrzakhstan and Georgia, mindful from our own experience that it takes a long time to get democracy right and that it rarely happens right away."

Kerry meant to say Kyrgyzstan, a nation of 5.5 million people and a key U.S. ally in the region in the fight against terrorism. Kazakhstan, population 16.5 million, is its larger and wealthier neighbor to the north.

His slip of the tongue isn't reflected in the State Department's official transcript of his speech, which claims he said "Kyrgyzstan." But the gaffe is clearly audible in the video of the speech.

Foreign media took note of it as well.

"John Kerry invents country of Kyrzakhstan," blared a headline in The Telegraph, a U.K. daily newspaper.

Related: Kerry begins first official overseas trip in London

Related: Senate confirms Kerry as secretary of state


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