March 8, 2017 / 3:08 AM / 5 months ago

U.S. secretary of state to make first trip to Asia

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks on issues related to visas and travel after U.S. President Donald Trump signed a new travel ban order in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2017.Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will make his first trip to Asia next week and meet with senior officials to discuss North Korea's recent missile tests and U.S. economic and security interests in the region.

He will arrive in Japan on March 15, continue on to South Korea on March 17 and visit China from March 18-19.

The trip comes after Pyongyang's latest missile launches and the assassination in Malaysia of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother have added urgency to the region's security situation.

U.S. President Donald Trump faces a growing test of resolve after vowing while campaigning to get tough on North Korea. Trump's aides are pressing to complete a strategy review on how to counter Pyongyang's missile and nuclear threats.

Trump has attacked China on issues ranging from trade to the South China Sea and what he perceives as China's lack of interest in reining in nuclear-armed North Korea.

Last month, Trump held his first face-to-face talks with a member of the Chinese leadership, top diplomat Yang Jiechi who outranks Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and the White House said it was a chance to discuss shared security interests and a possible meeting with President Xi Jinping.

Wang and Tillerson met last month in Germany on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers of the G20 top economies.

"I think that Secretary of State Tillerson is a person who is willing to listen and is a deep communicator," Wang said at his annual news conference in Beijing on Wednesday, on the sidelines of China's parliament.

"I believe we can establish a good working relationship," he added.

Reporting by Yara Bayoumy; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Michael Perry

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