March 17, 2017 11:42 am JST

Tillerson arrives in South Korea for 2-day visit

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in South Korea on Friday for a two-day visit aimed at discussing ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation in dealing with mounting security threats and provocations from North Korea.

Tillerson, who arrived at a military airbase on the outskirts of Seoul, is scheduled to meet with South Korea's Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn later in the day after visiting the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas.

The secretary will also hold talks with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se. The two will hold a joint news conference before entering into the talks.

Before coming to Seoul, Tillerson visited Japan on the first leg of his three-country trip to Asia that will also take him to China on Saturday. It is his first Asian tour since assuming his post on Feb. 1.

Tillerson's visit comes at a time of heightened tensions surrounding the Korean Peninsula after North Korea test-fired four missiles nearly simultaneously toward the Sea of Japan from its northeast on March 6, on top of more than 20 ballistic missiles and conducting two nuclear tests last year alone.

The secretary acknowledged in Tokyo on Thursday that U.S. policy toward North Korea over the past two decades had "failed" and underscored the need for a "different approach."

In addition, there is growing friction between South Korea and China over the former's deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile defense system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.

South Korea started the deployment of the missile battery earlier this month following an agreement reached with the United States in July last year to better cope with North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

China has opposed the deployment, saying it could undermine its security interests and the strategic balance of the region, and has been stepping up pressure on South Korea to drop the plan.

THAAD is designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles inside or beyond the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight, U.S. authorities say, adding the system is strictly defensive and poses no threat to other countries in the region.

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