Tillerson to make first trip to Asia

WASHINGTON • United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make his first trip to Asia next week, and meet senior officials to discuss North Korea's recent missile tests and US economic and security interests in the region.

He will arrive in Japan next Wednesday, continue on to South Korea next Friday, and then visit China from March 18 to 19.

Mr Tillerson's trip comes after Pyongyang's recent missile launches and the alleged assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother in Malaysia have served to add urgency to the region's security situation.

US President Donald Trump faces a growing test of resolve, having vowed during his election campaign to get tough on North Korea.

His aides are also pressing to complete a strategy review on countering Pyongyang's missile and nuclear threats.

Mr Trump has attacked China on a range of issues from trade to the South China Sea, and what he perceives as China's lack of interest in reining in nuclear-armed North Korea.

Last month, the US President held his first face-to-face talks with a member of the Chinese leadership, top diplomat Yang Jiechi - who outranks Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

The White House said the meeting was a chance to discuss shared security interests, and possibly a future meeting with President Xi Jinping.

Mr Wang and Mr Tillerson met last month in Germany, on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers of the G20 top economies.

"I think that Secretary of State Tillerson is a person who is willing to listen and is a deep communicator," said Mr Wang at a news conference held in Beijing yesterday.

"I believe we can establish a good working relationship," added the Chinese Foreign Minister.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2017, with the headline 'Tillerson to make first trip to Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe