04:05 GMT +319 September 2018
Listen Live
    Rex Tillerson

    US Secretary of State Tillerson Leaves for First Official Visit to Asia

    © AFP 2018 / BEN STANSALL
    Politics
    Get short URL
    226

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departed the United States on Tuesday for his first trip to northeastern Asia as President Donald Trump's top diplomat.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Tillerson will arrive in Japan on March 15, Republic of Korea on March 17 and China on March 18 to meet bilaterally with the leaders of the three nations.

    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.

    Last week, the United States announced the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea to counter the threat posed by Pyongyang's nuclear-related activities. The system is designed to intercept short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles at the terminal incoming stage.

    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.

    On March 8, Minister Wang said China and the United States should stick to the principles of non-confrontation. Wang expressed hope he would manage to establish good relations with Tillerson calling the US top diplomat "a man, who can listen" and "a man, who can establish contacts."

    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

    Tillerson's first Asia trip will not receive regular media coverage. Toner said in a press briefing on Tuesday there was no room for a traveling press pool on the small aircraft Tillerson flew to Asia.

    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.

    Related:

    Tillerson Uses Only Official Email, Phone for US State Department Business
    Trump Pleased By Tillerson, Dunford Meetings With Russian Counterparts
    Tillerson, Chinese Councilor Agree on Need to Address N. Korea Threat
    Tags:
    Rex Tillerson, Japan, South Korea, United States
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik
    • Сomment