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Media: Tillerson to visit Japan, China and South Korea

By Zhao Huanxin | | Updated: 2017-03-05 10:21

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is likely to embark on his debut trip to Asia this month, visiting Japan, South Korea and China, and possibly meeting Chinese foreign minister and even more senior leaders, Japanese media reported on Saturday.

Tillerson was expected in Japan on March 17-18 and would meet Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Kyodo news agency said. The report was not confirmed by the US State Department. A department spokesman was cited by Reuters as saying: "We don't have any travel to announce at this time.”

Beijing has also not confirmed the timing of the visit as of Saturday evening.

In China, the US secretary of state would meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi and possibly President Xi Jinping, Kyodo reported, adding that the two sides were expected to arrange a meeting in the US between Xi and his US counterpart Donald Trump.

That would be the second time for Tillerson to hold talks with Wang since becoming Trump’s top diplomat about a month ago. The two met on Feb 17 on the sidelines of the Group of 20 ministers meeting in Bonn, Germany. At the meeting, Wang stressed that common interests between China and the US far outweigh their differences.

The reported travel to China seemed to be a response to an invitation from China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, last Tuesday.

In their meeting at the State Department, Yang, the first senior Chinese official to visit Washington five weeks after President Trump’s inauguration, invited Tillerson to visit Beijing, and Tillerson expressed interest in doing so in the near future, acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said last Tuesday.

The two officials affirmed the importance of a “constructive” relationship and of “regular high-level engagement” between the world’s two largest economies, Toner said.

Tillerson’s reported China trip followed improving China-US relations in recent weeks after Trump’s China-bashing rhetoric on his campaign trail and his early challenge on the one-China policy, the cornerstone of relations between the two countries.

On Feb. 9, in what Trump tweeted as a “lengthy and cordial” phone conversation with President Xi, the two sides agreed to work together to achieve greater results in further developing China-US relations. Trump agreed to honor the one-China policy, a shift from his earlier saying that he might not do so unless China made big concessions on trade.

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