A tour to reassure: Tillerson in Japan

Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will embark on his first visit to Asia on Wednesday, landing

Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

Photo: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will embark on his first visit to Asia on Wednesday, landing in Tokyo to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. North Korea’s increasingly dire missile threat will top the agenda.

Interestingly, officials preparing the trip said that they did not expect any major policy announcements to be made. So while Tillerson and Abe might discuss deployment of the THAAD missile defence system in Japan – already underway in South Korea – they won’t necessarily reach a decision.

Instead, the Secretary of State aims to lay the groundwork for the new administration’s slowly emerging Asia policy. His desire to keep a low profile has led him to break with tradition and not include any reporters in his entourage.

Tillerson will also use the visit to reaffirm the centrality of the US alliance with Japan, particularly Article 5, which compels the US to defend its ally if attacked. His tour’s next stop in Seoul will be warmly welcomed, after which he will move on to Beijing, where he will receive a rather frostier welcome.