WASHINGTON • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's upcoming visit to Asia demonstrates Washington's strong commitment to allies and partners in the region, the top American diplomat for East Asia, Mr David Stilwell, has said.
Mr Pompeo on Friday said he would go ahead with his planned trip to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia, after President Donald Trump tested positive for Covid-19.
The Secretary of State was due to leave Europe for Tokyo yesterday. He told reporters travelling with him on a visit to Croatia that both he and his wife tested negative for Covid-19 20 minutes before landing in Dubrovnik on Friday.
Mr Pompeo, who is fourth in line to succeed the President if necessary, said he last saw Mr Trump on Sept 15.
In a briefing call on the trip for reporters, Mr Stilwell said the United States saw the decision by newly minted Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to host Mr Pompeo as a reaffirmation of an ever-strengthening partnership.
Mr Stilwell called the US-Japan relationship "the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific" region.
Asked if a ministerial meeting of the Quad grouping of the US, Japan, Australia and India on Tuesday would produce a joint statement, he said "probably not".
There were a lot of areas for discussion in the four-way grouping, but these could be "free-form as well," he said.
"This is the wonderful thing about the Quad... We have shared values, but different perspectives, and from those come great ideas and elegant solutions."
Mr Stilwell said the Quad, which China has denounced as an attempt to contain its development, was focused on furthering "a shared vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific... especially as (China's) tactics of aggression and coercion increase in the region".
Recent discussions among the Quad had focused on building cooperation on issues including maritime security and on critical technology, infrastructure and counter-terrorism, he added.
China-US relations have sunk to the lowest point in decades in the run-up to the Nov 3 US presidential election. The world's two biggest economies have clashed bitterly over various issues - from trade and technological and security rivalry to human rights and the response to the coronavirus, which first surfaced in Wuhan, China, late last year.
Washington's allies and partners in Asia share US concerns about China's increasingly assertive behaviour and extensive territorial claims, but analysts say they have also been concerned about the tone of some of Mr Pompeo and Mr Trump's rhetoric against Beijing.