Pence to visit four Asia-Pacific nations next month

JAKARTA • US Vice-President Mike Pence will visit Japan and Indonesia next month, sources said yesterday, as part of an Asian tour amid concerns the Trump administration is rolling back Mr Barack Obama's pivot to Asia.

US President Donald Trump has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, which was seen as an economic pillar of the strategy.

Mr Pence's tour will also include South Korea and Australia, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, with North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes as well as South Korea's political crisis likely topics for discussion.

China has been infuriated by Seoul's plan to deploy a US missile defence system, targeted at the North Korean threat, and South Korea is going through political turmoil after the dismissal of its president in a corruption scandal.

Mr Pence is also expected to visit Tokyo for the US-Japan economic dialogue, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The visit comes after North Korea's latest missile launches, and the assassination in Malaysia of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother Jong Nam, added uncertainty to the region's security.

It will also follow this month's trip by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Japan, South Korea and China.

The TPP had been the main economic pillar of the Obama administration's pivot to the Asia-Pacific region in the face of a fast-rising China.

Proponents of the pact have expressed concerns that abandoning the project, which took years to negotiate, could further strengthen China's economic hand in the region at the expense of the United States.

Indonesia's chief security minister Wiranto said Mr Pence would meet President Joko Widodo to discuss terrorism and other security issues.

Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, has recently grappled with a series of low-level militant attacks inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Pence to visit four Asia-Pacific nations next month'. Print Edition | Subscribe