WASHINGTON -- Asia continues to be a major focus of American diplomacy under President Donald Trump. Top officials from the administration -- including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson -- are set to underscore America's continued commitment to the geopolitically important region by soon visiting Asia.
Tillerson will begin his first tour of Japan, China and South Korea as secretary of state by visiting Tokyo on March 17 and 18. While in the Japanese capital, Tillerson is to hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. In China, he is to talk with President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. In South Korea, he is to meet Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.
During each meeting, Tillerson is expected to discuss growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. In China, he is also expected to ask Beijing to increase pressure on North Korea.
Pence will visit Japan in mid-April to initiate a new economic dialogue. He is also expected to visit South Korea, Indonesia and Australia.
Trump is expected to visit Japan sometime around November, when the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is to be held in Vietnam. The visit will reaffirm the strengthening of the U.S.-Japan alliance.
Until recently, the Trump administration was seen as tilting toward isolationism with less commitment to other countries, unnerving Asian economies.
Under the eight-year administration of George W. Bush, who took office in 2001, the U.S. focused on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That left a power vacuum in Asia, allowing China to make maritime advances with no respect for international law.
Reflecting on the failure of the Bush administration, Barack Obama, Trump's predecessor, declared a pivot to Asia. But his oft-criticized "weak" diplomacy failed to live up to expectations.
The Trump administration has concluded that the Obama administration's "strategic patience" regarding North Korea's nuclear ambitions was a failure.
The Trump administration's Asia policy is led by former military officials, including Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser Herbert Raymond McMaster. The government is increasingly taking a hard-line approach against North Korea, mulling the use of force and pushing for regime change.