US Secretary of State Starts Tour in East Asia

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests a year ago alone following those in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

The United States has about 50,000 troops in Japan, and another 28,000 in South Korea.

The United States has also started to deploy "Gray Eagle" attack drones to South Korea, a U.S. military spokesman said on Monday. Earlier on Tuesday, North Korea has warned the U.S. of merciless attack as they joined South Korea in military exercises. They paved the way for the annual bilateral strategic and economic dialogues launched by the Bush administration, merged and continued during the Obama years.

"I would not have high expectations that we'd have a completely new or clear game plan at the end of this visit", explains Susan Shirk, the Chair of the 21st Century China Center at U.C. San Diego. But the meeting was canceled in late February, when the US State Department refused to issue visas for North Korean diplomats, perpetuating a lack of communication that has only compounded the risks of the current standoff.

Last week, the USA ambassador to the United Nations said President Donald Trump's administration was re-evaluating its North Korea strategy and "all options are on the table". Speaking at a briefing last week, acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner repeated the long-standing US position that North Korea would need to give some sign it was serious about giving up nuclear weapons before talks of any kind could resume. Would the Trump administration go there? Tillerson is also expected to reaffirm U.S. commitment to expanding economic and security interests in the Asia-Pacific region.

A senior South Korean official said Monday that there is no firm evidence China has retaliated for Seoul's deployment of a missile defense system.

"The arrested pastors are known to have insisted that they helped North Korean defectors as they were at risk of being repatriated to the North where human rights violations are serious", said an official in the group. But such actions would only exacerbate the regime's sense of insecurity.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is taking off for Japan, South Korea and China this week for his maiden trip to the region.

The Chinese directive follows the announcement late last month by the South Korean and US governments that components for a new USA -developed anti-missile system were to arrive in South Korea last week for installation.

Meanwhile, China's role on the Korean Peninsula is becoming more complicated. "We can see if China is willing to change that, but we can't have U.S. policy held hostage to Chinese long-term and short-term decisions regarding North Korea".

Since coming to office in January, and especially since the most recent North Korean missile tests last week, Trump has been looking for ways to turn up the pressure on Pyongyang.

This year's Key Resolve drill will reportedly conduct the first computer simulation of operating the THAAD battery, which local media outlets estimated would be deployed in southeast South Korea as early as next month.

There were rumors online that China is deploying its Dongfeng-41 road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile to cope with the threat from THAAD, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports. He's set to meet Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

  • Zachary Reyes