Tillerson starts key Asia tour facing United States foreign budget cuts

  • Tillerson starts key Asia tour facing United States foreign budget cuts

Tillerson starts key Asia tour facing United States foreign budget cuts

Tillerson, a former oil executive, arrived in Japan late on Wednesday on his first trip to Asia and will also visit South Korea and China.

While in the Republic of Korea, according to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tillerson will travel to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) along the border between North and South Korea.

While he is delaying some of the drastic cuts the White House wanted, it is far from clear that Tillerson can prevail over Trump aides such as Steve Bannon who want to dismantle parts of the federal government and limit USA engagement with the world, said three of the current and former officials.

After Tokyo, Tillerson will fly on to Seoul for talks with South Korea's acting leader, and at the weekend he heads to Beijing amid reports he will seek to finalise plans for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to visit Trump in April. But since taking office he has been careful to offer full support, a message that Tillerson reiterated, saying the United States and Japan had an "unwavering bond".

"I think it's important to recognise that the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearisation have failed", he told a press conference with Japan's foreign minister.

While North Korea and trade are expected to be high on the agenda, the former Exxon Mobil Russia executive is also expected to try to arrange a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.

Central to the USA review is China and its role in any bid to persuade Pyongyang to change course.

While the US and its allies in Seoul and Tokyo implore Beijing to press its economic leverage over North Korea, the Chinese have emphasized their desire to relaunch diplomatic talks - a non-starter for the USA under current conditions.

Ankara is also angered by USA support for Syrian Kurdish fighters. Military action, however, would endanger South Korea and anger China, the two next stops on Tillerson's trip. China sees it as a threat to its own security. Tillerson said the lower budget reflects the administration's expectations that the United States will be engaged in fewer foreign wars, and that other countries will contribute more to development and disaster aid.

Washington has previously said all options, including military, are on the table in its review of policies toward North Korea and Japanese officials are keen to know more details. He said the drills are aimed at using atomic weapons for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. The measures in this sanctions package include placing a cap on coal exports to target North Korea's hard currency revenues; a ban on exports of non-ferrous metals; sanctions on government officials as well as other entities linked to the country's nuclear weapons program; and measures cracking down on the country's access to the global banking system.

Topping their agenda was North Korea's launch last week of a salvo of four missiles, one of which came down in waters just 320km (200 miles) off Japan's coast. But negotiations always fell through, often because the country would try to launch another missile, or the USA would suspect the North wasn't revealing all its nuclear facilities.

During last year's election campaign, presidential candidate Donald Trump called into question US security alliances and called for Tokyo and Seoul to contribute more for their defense. With Washington, Seoul is getting flack on the issue of cost-sharing with the US military in South Korea and over its free trade agreement.

Ties between the two allies were strained in the final months of the Obama administration over demands for Washington to extradite a Muslim cleric who is accused by Turkish officials of orchestrating a failed coup in July.