Throughout our coverage of the North Korea situation, Liberty Nation has stressed the importance of a calculated U.S. response to the troubling events regarding several countries in the far east. The area is one of strategic significance, and one wrong move could plunge the Korean peninsula back into war. It remains to be seen precisely how the Trump administration will respond, and what engagement plan they have with the North Koreans, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Asia may shed some light on this and more as the week progresses.
According to Reuters, Secretary Tillerson will be making stops in Japan and South Korea before visiting China. North Korea is sure to be the number one issue for many of those visits. Liberty Nation previously reported on Japan’s desire to acquire missile defense assets and the topic is expected to have a major presence on the agenda during Secretary Tillerson’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The United States has already begun deployment of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-missile systems in South Korea, and we may soon see a similar deployment in Japan, depending on the outcome of this meeting.
While the topic of a bristlier Japan is a sensitive one, the visit to South Korea (scheduled for Friday) will be delicate. South Korea recently ousted President Park Geun-hye in the midst of a government corruption scandal. Any agreements made between Secretary Tillerson and South Korea’s acting president, Prime Minister Kwang Kyo-ahn, and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se may not be lasting. South Korea will hold elections in two months, and there could be a significant change in South Korean policy if the liberal opposition wins out.
Most daunting of all will be Secretary Tillerson’s visit to China. China is North Korea’s strongest ally. Chinese officials have already voiced opposition to THAAD systems in South Korea, claiming that radar ability to penetrate into Chinese territory is the actual goal of the system’s deployment. China has also suggested the United States and South Korea halt Foal Eagle, the joint military drills opposed by North Korea. Both the U.S. and South Korea have summarily rejected that idea.
While administration officials have said that “THAAD is non-negotiable” there may be other ways for Secretary Tillerson to convince the Chinese to take a larger role in reining in their rogue neighbor. The meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to be an interesting one — especially after President Trump’s threats of punitive tariffs and the threat of a looming trade war.
This visit will be the first major test of Secretary of State Tillerson’s diplomatic prowess, and the success or failure of these meetings, especially with China, will help drive U.S. strategy in dealing with North Korea.
The stakes could not be higher.