Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has set out on a three-leg tour to Asia as the new top US diplomat amid tensions over North Korea's missile launches and nuclear tests.
Tillerson started his six-day sweep on Wednesday in Japan and he will move on to South
Korea, and later, end his tour in China.
Analysts says the perceived threat from by North Korea, which is in part triggered by US military provocations and is driving the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia towards war, will be on top of the former oil executive’s agenda.
South Korea and Japan, which jointly host 77,000 US troops, are concerned about whether the Trump administration is committed to the countries’ alliance.
North Korea, which is equipped with nuclear ballistic missiles, has warned Washington of retaliatory attacks if the US Navy violates its sovereignty during joint war games with South Korean forces.
Pyongyang has repeatedly slammed the annual war games as a rehearsal for invasion of the North and called on the US, Japan and South Korea to stop provocative military exercises.
However, the US military has furthered its threats by deploying an advanced missile system to South Korea.
The recent deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) to South Korea, not only raised the ire of North Korea, but was also met with strong opposition from China and Russia.
Beijing and Moscow say the US THAAD’s special radar system not only compromises their security, but also, destabilizes regional military balance.
The US and China are also at loggerheads over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
However, at the same time, the US acknowledges that its economy is dependent on China, making the political equation ever more complicated.