Missiles weigh on Tillerson visit to allies and Beijing

China | Mar 16, 2017
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faces a tough first trip to Asia this week when the former oil executive will seek to reassure nervous allies facing North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat and press China to do more on perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting President Donald Trump.

Tillerson, pictured, will visit Japan and South Korea before heading to Beijing, where he is expected to firm up a US visit by President Xi Jinping next month to meet Trump as the leaders of the word's two largest economies.

But the chances of Tillerson persuading China to do more to curb North Korea's weapons programs while in Beijing appear scant, given China's anger at the deployment of a US anti-missile system in South Korea last week, and Trump's repeated threats to impose punitive tariffs on Beijing to correct a large trade imbalance.

Tillerson faces a delicate task in South Korea, which is in political turmoil after former President Park Geun Hye was ousted last week in a corruption scandal. The prospects of a victory by South Korea's liberal opposition in elections to be held within two months has raised questions about the future there of the US- made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, which China objects to as its radar can penetrate China's territory.

In Seoul on Friday, Tillerson will meet the acting president, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn, and Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se. He is not scheduled to see opposition figures, a State Department official said, raising questions about the durability of any agreements.

China says its influence has limits with neighbor and ally North Korea.

Tillerson will be in China on Saturday and Sunday to meet Xi, State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.


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April 2018