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Asian tour T-Rex: what ended with the visit of U.S. Secretary of state in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing

U.S. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson

© Lintao Zhang/Pool Photo via AP

U.S. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson made a trip to several Asian countries for a few days visiting Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK) and China. The sides discussed the most urgent issues of bilateral and multilateral relations, however, one of the main topics of the talks was the opposition of the nuclear-missile threat from the DPRK. TASS summarizes the first Asian tour of the head of American diplomacy.

Alone, all alone

First visit Rex Tillerson in Asia have not had time to begin, as became the subject of intense debate in the media. The fact that during this tour of US Secretary of state, usually accompanied by a pool of journalists — this tradition has remained unchanged for half a century . Tillerson decided to travel light: according to Politico, he used a small plane, and was accompanied by his only one reporter Erin Macpac of the conservative publication the Independent Journal Review, which never did work lighting depodesta USA and was established only four years ago. Other media representatives had to follow the Secretary of state privately. Protests from the journalistic community Tillerson ignored, again justifying the nickname “T-Rex”, which he received for the indomitable character.

For comparison, in 2009 when then Secretary of state Hillary Clinton went to the same Asian tour, she traveled with a large delegation on a Boeing 747 — while The Washington Post wrote that the trip “is reminiscent of a presidential visit.” Clinton also generously gave interviews, made referrals and has appeared on TV, while Tillerson their presence in the media space reduced to the minimum. Until Saturday, March 18, the Independent Journal Review has not published any notes about the Asian tour of Secretary of state, social network Erin Macpac were also not updated. When the new head of the state Department still broke the silence, he explained his behavior: “I’m not a big supporter of the press. I personally don’t need it”.

The New York Times suggests that this impact old habits Tillerson — when he was the head of ExxonMobil he could fly his plane all over the world and negotiate behind closed doors, without attracting too much media attention. However, the head of the state Department couldn’t afford, and the predecessors Tillerson — from Dean Acheson to John Kerry always worked in conjunction with reporters. Usually during long flights the Secretary of state himself came to the part of the plane, where sat the representatives of the press pool, to explain to them the position of the US administration on this or that international issue. Although exceptions when journalists not specifically devoted to certain details concerning the diplomatic agenda of Washington, of course, took place: suffice it to recall the secret visit of Henry Kissinger to China in 1971.

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The Chinese gambit

One of the main purposes of public diplomacy, the U.S. — to convince foreign partners that Washington is not only American interests, but in the interest of the whole world. This means that the state Department must quickly determine and clearly articulate the strategy of the further actions on a particular issue — otherwise the initiative can intercept another player. During the Asian tour Rex Tillerson was able to experience the subtleties of this game on the example of the DPRK nuclear issue, which has become the main topic of the talks between Secretary of state Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing.

For the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the Chinese leadership has proposed to Washington to consider a plan under which Pyongyang will completely freeze its missile and nuclear program, and in exchange, the United States and South Korea will suspend regular joint military exercises. Commenting on this proposal in Seoul, Tillerson said that the freeze “will leave North Korea with a significant [military] capabilities, which pose a real threat not only for the region but for the American forces.” He also acknowledged that the policy of strategic patience, which has previously worked in Washington against Pyongyang, “has exhausted itself”. In this regard, he announced the USA’s intention to use the new diplomatic, economic and military methods of influence on the DPRK.

As the NYT notes, the problem is that any particular solution Tillerson is not offered. And, as growing tensions over Pyongyang’s actions, more and more people in the region will agree to the plan of Beijing, while the influence of Washington will fade away. “In South Korea, there are politicians (including one or two of those who can become President in the upcoming elections), which can be considered the Chinese approach is preferable to the risk of the conflict”, — said the publication of a senior source in Seoul.

Foreign Policy and does believe that any plan against the DPRK at the command of trump no. “The only effective short-term answer is to strengthen deterrence of Pyongyang, to strengthen missile defense and to take measures to restrict the DPRK’s nuclear programme. It will not be the reason for positive headlines, but it will make sense [from the point of view of relations] with Japan and South Korea, and, hopefully, with China”, — the newspaper writes.

However, one hint of possible further actions of States in the region Tillerson did: in an interview with Fox News he said that Washington admits the possibility of deployment of nuclear weapons to deter nuclear and missile threat from North Korea. “We do not exclude any variants of actions”, — he said, responding to a reporter’s question. “We exchange views” with the allies on this occasion, said Tillerson while visiting the demilitarized zone on the border between the two Koreas. Subsequently, in an interview with the Independent Journal Review is the chief of American diplomacy said that the US administration at this stage does not support the idea of development by Japan and the Republic of Korea its own nuclear weapons, and Washington’s priority remains curtailing North Korea’s nuclear programme.

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Failed 20 years and new approaches: Tillerson outlined the U.S. position on the DPRK

A tangle of contradictions

To establish the situation on the Korean Peninsula were promised at the time, and Barack Obama, and George W. Bush. Now about the readiness to deal with this problem, says Donald trump, but the reality of his possible actions is quite limited. Slate commentators have noted that this is largely due to deep contradictions between the partners of Washington in the region. The Republic of Korea and Japan are experiencing the midst of the diplomatic conflict over the issue of Korean “comfort women” victims of sexual violence during the Japanese occupation in the mid-twentieth century. Japan and China for several years arguing about the ownership of Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku Islands), which each party considers its sovereign and indivisible territory. China is unhappy with the placement in the ROK us missile defense system THAAD, which Beijing sees as a threat. Finally, the Republic of Korea is now experiencing a period of political turbulence in connection with the impeachment of President Park Geun-Hye. Some candidates for the post of the head of state not only are against the deployment of THAAD, but also advocating for a radical improvement of relations with the North until the organization of the summit, Kim Jong-UN. So, the military, and especially nuclear solution to the North Korean issue is unlikely to be supported under the new administration in Seoul.

In the future, much will depend on whether Tillerson to navigate these sensitive issues. Moreover, some of the nuances of interaction with Asians, he had already managed to experience for yourself. So, while in Tokyo, Secretary of state admitted the expression “problematic women” and not “women of comfort”, then foreign Minister of Korea has asked the United States to change the expression used in the official common record of negotiations. Seoul also bothered by the fact that during the interview the head of the diplomacy of the States has called Japan’s “most important ally”, and Korea was described only as “an important partner”. Considering that in this way Tillerson made clear that Japan is the US a more important partner and ally than South Korea, the Korean leadership has canceled an official dinner with the Secretary of state, citing his fatigue.

It is also not known which way to turn Washington’s relations with Beijing. Tillerson prior to arrival in the Chinese capital President Donald trump criticized China for lack, in his opinion, efforts to question the DPRK. “North Korea is behaving badly. They have for many years played with the United States. China does little to help!” – trump wrote on Twitter.

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2017

However, during a joint press conference Tillerson with the Minister of foreign Affairs of China Wang Yi, us Secretary of state said that the US and China is feeling the urgent need to solve the problem of North Korea, “and we see before us a number of steps that we can take”. Neither Tillerson nor its Chinese counterpart did not disclose details of the steps which they are considering, and it is not clear whether the positions of Washington and Beijing on the issue.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, shortly before the meeting with Tillerson Chairman XI Jinping, began to receive reports of North Korean test of a rocket engine. DPRK leader Kim Jong-UN called the test results a great historic event that guarantees “about the birth of a national missile industry, which will not depend on technologies of other countries.” After a few hours after the appearance of this information, it became known that Beijing and Washington began preparations for the meeting of XI and trump — appears to be disturbing news from Pyongyang has accelerated the adoption of this decision.

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