TOKYO • United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due to visit Japan, South Korea and China this month to discuss developments in North Korea on his first trip to the region since he took up his post, the Japanese media reported yesterday.
His trip would come as the US and China try to put relations on an even keel after a rocky start following the election of President Donald Trump, and amid heightened tension following the killing in Malaysia of the half brother of North Korea's leader.
A US State Department spokesman said: "We don't have any travel to announce at this time."
The Japanese and South Korean foreign ministries could not be reached for comment. China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Japan's Kyodo news agency, citing diplomatic sources, said Mr Tillerson is expected in Japan on March 17-18 and will meet Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. The two are likely to discuss the timing of a visit to Japan by Mr Trump, Kyodo cited its sources as saying.
In China, Mr Tillerson will meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi and possibly President Xi Jinping, Kyodo reported, adding that the two sides are expected to arrange for a meeting in the US between Mr Xi and Mr Trump as early as next month.
Mr Tillerson and Mr Wang spoke by telephone last month when they affirmed the importance of a constructive US-China relationship. Mr Tillerson last month urged China to do all it could to moderate North Korea's destabilising behaviour.
In Seoul, he is expected to meet Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se.
They will likely discuss North Korea's weapons programme and the recent murder of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The US State Department released its annual report on human rights around the world on Friday but the move was overshadowed by criticism that Mr Tillerson gave the report little of the traditional attention or fanfare. He declined to unveil the report in person, breaking with precedent that was established during both the Democratic and Republican administrations.
A senior US official answered reporters' questions by phone on condition of anonymity rather than appearing on camera, also a break with precedent.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE