US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit South Korea, Japan and China, the State Department announced, just a day after North Korea launched ballistic missiles close to ally Japan. On his first visit to the region as top US diplomat, March 15-19, Tillerson will speak with authorities after the tests, which were followed by Washington’s deployment of an advanced missile defense system in South Korea.
“In each country, Secretary Tillerson will meet with senior officials to discuss bilateral and multilateral issues, including strategic coordination to address the advancing nuclear and missile threat from the DPRK, and reaffirm the Administration’s commitment to further broaden and enhance US economic and security interests in the Asia-Pacific region,” spokesman Mark Toner said.
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Tillerson arrives in Tokyo on March 15; heads to Seoul on March 17, and on to Beijing on March 18. The US Pacific Command said Monday that the Americans had begun deploying the THAAD system to South Korea, which is designed to defend the US ally from a North Korean attack.
China responded that it was “firmly opposed” to the deployment and vowed to “resolutely take necessary measures” to defend its security interests. China, a permanent council member and Pyongyang’s main ally, has argued that deployment of the THAAD would further destabilise the situation on the Korean peninsula.
Meanwhile, China today called on North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the US and South Korea halting military wargames, to avoid what it called a “head-on collision.”