Asahi reported on Secretary of State Tillerson’s trip to Northeast Asia starting tomorrow, projecting that his foremost task will be to elicit greater cooperation from China to prevent North Korea from continuing to pursue missile and nuclear development. The daily quoted an unnamed senior DOS official as saying on Saturday that “all options are on the table” and that the USG is looking into “more effective measures” to apply pressure on North Korea. As the Trump administration is currently conducting a review of its strategy toward Pyongyang, the Secretary is expected to brief Japan and South Korea on the status of the review. The paper added that China will be Secretary Tillerson’s top priority for the tour, noting that he is hoping to hold talks with President Xi in order to enlist his support for putting more pressure on the DPRK. The Secretary is also expected to ask the Chinese leader to visit the U.S. in early April for a summit with President Trump.
Sankei also filed a report on Tillerson’s visit to Japan, noting that senior MOFA officials visited Washington last week to make final arrangements. Given that their U.S. counterparts did not clearly indicate when the USG will complete its ongoing review of North Korea policy, the Japanese diplomats reportedly believe that Tokyo will still be able to offer its input so that the new U.S. strategy can reflect Japan’s views. The daily said some Japanese officials are insisting that the Trump administration consider a “preemptive strike” by the U.S. military as a possible option in the belief that North Korea will not come to the negotiating table unless stronger pressure is applied. They claim that the DPRK agreed to launch the Six-Party Talks in the early 2000s since the Bush administration took a hard line by calling North Korea a member of the “axis of evil.”