US Acting Assistant Secretary Susan Thornton said in a press briefing on Monday that the trip would particularly focus on coordinating response to North Korea's nuclear threat. Tillerson is also expected to reaffirm US commitment to expanding economic and security interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
Thornton noted, however, that Washington will not announce any new sanctions against North Korea over its continuing ballistic missile tests during the Tillerson's tour to Asia.
SEIZING MOMENTUM AFTER TRUMP-ABE MAR-A-LAGO SUMMIT
While in Japan, Tillerson is expected to meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Thornton specified that the secretary will hold meetings in Tokyo as a follow-up to Trump's talks with Abe. In February, the president hosted the prime minister at his Palm Beach retreat Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
On March 6, Trump said in a phone conversation with Abe that his administration was taking steps to further enhance deterrence and defend against North Korea's ballistic missiles "using the full range of United States military capabilities."
The statement came after North Korea fired four ballistic missiles, three of which landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, triggering a negative reaction from, Seoul, Tokyo and their allies.
US COMMITMENT TO SOUTH KOREA'S SECURITY
During the South Korea leg of the trip, Tillerson will hold talks with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn. The discussions will primarily focus on North Korea.
After reports of the start of the deployment process, China's Foreign Ministry stressed that it stands strongly against the THAAD deployment and will take the necessary measures to protect its security interests.
CHINA — TILLERSON’S FINAL LEG OF THE TRIP
In Beijing, Tillerson will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. He will also hold talks with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi as well as State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
Thornton said on Monday Tillerson would be seeking "results-oriented" relationship with Beijing.
State Department acting spokesperson Mark Toner did not rule out on Tuesday that the US secretary of state would discuss climate issues with Chinese authorities.
TILLERSON ASIA TRIP WITHOUT REGULAR PRESS COVERAGE
The decision to travel on a smaller aircraft was Tillerson’s, Toner said, and was in part an effort to save money.
US Senator Edward Markey has argued that Tillerson's decision to restrict media coverage would allow foreign powers to shape public perception.