US VP Mike Pence to tour Asia next month: Reports

US Vice-President Mike Pence is set to visit Indonesia in April. He is also expected to visit Japan, South Korea and Australia.
US Vice-President Mike Pence is set to visit Indonesia in April. He is also expected to visit Japan, South Korea and Australia. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - US Vice-President Mike Pence will visit Indonesia next month, sources said on Monday (March 13), as part of what a Japanese magazine said was an Asian tour amid concerns the Trump administration is rolling back Barack Obama's "pivot to Asia".

US President Donald Trump has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which was seen as an economic pillar of the strategy.

Pence is also expected to visit Japan, South Korea, and Australia, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, with North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes and China's expansion in the South China Sea likely topics for discussion.

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, Kim Jong Nam, added urgency to the region's security.

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

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

"We discussed the planned visit of US vice president Mike Pence to Indonesia and the strategic problems that can be on the agenda to discuss with our president," chief security minister Wiranto told reporters after meeting the US ambassador to Jakarta.

He added that no dates had been finalised.

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

In Indonesia, Pence is also expected to discuss a brewing contract dispute between the government and American mining giant Freeport McMoran Inc, said two Indonesian government sources.

Freeport has threatened to take the Indonesian government to court over newly revised mining regulations that have prompted a major scale-back in its operations in the eastern province of Papua.