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Tillerson to focus on North Korea during 3-nation trip from March 15

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Japan, South Korea and China from March 15 to 19 for talks mainly on North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons development, the State Department said Tuesday.


In each country, 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,” or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s formal name, the department said.


His first trip to the Asia-Pacific region since becoming President Donald Trump’s top diplomat on Feb. 1 comes after North Korea on Monday fired ballistic missiles that landed in waters as close as 300-350 kilometers off Japan’s northwest coast.


Tillerson is expected to gain China’s approval of the just-started deployment in South Korea of an advanced U.S. missile defense system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, as part of a greater deterrence effort against North Korea.


Tillerson is also likely to urge Beijing, which has considerable economic leverage on Pyongyang, to strengthen pressure on North Korea.


China has opposed the THAAD deployment, saying it could undermine its security interests and the strategic balance of the region.


During the visit to the three countries, Tillerson will “reaffirm the administration’s commitment to further broaden and enhance U.S. economic and security interests in the Asia-Pacific region,” according to the department.


The top U.S. diplomat will arrive in Tokyo on March 15, continue to Seoul on March 17 and travel to Beijing on March 18, it said.

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