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Secretary of State Antony Blinken began his trip to Japan and South Korea on Sunday, accompanied by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in order to confront China’s advance and define the policy towards Pionyang.
Blinken’s plane took off on Sunday around 15.00 local time (19.00 GMT) from Joint Base Andrews (Maryland), on the outskirts of Washington.
Before the plane took off, the base’s loudspeakers blared the song “Rockin’ All Over the World,” one of the greatest hits by the legendary British rock band Status Quo.
Austin, meanwhile, is currently in Hawaii, where he is visiting U.S. troops of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and from there will leave for Japan.
Both will visit Tokyo on March 16th and 17th to meet with their Japanese Foreign and Defense counterparts, Toshimitsu Motegi and Nobuo Kishi, respectively, the State Department said in a statement.
Subsequently, on March 17th-18th, Blinken and Austin will meet in Seoul with South Korea’s chief diplomat as well as its defense chief Chung Eui-yong and Suh Wook respectively.
This first overseas trip by Blinken and Austin is intended as a sign of the importance U.S. President Joe Biden attaches to working with his two closest allies in the Far East, Japan and South Korea, in the face of China’s increasingly expansionist policy in the Indo-Pacific.
At the conclusion of the trip, the Pentagon chief will visit India and hold a meeting with his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh.
In the meantime, Blinken will head to Anchorage (Alaska) to participate with White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in the first official U.S. meeting with China since Biden took office on January 20th.
The U.S. President has made it clear that Asia will be a centerpiece of his foreign policy and wants to count on Japan and South Korea to define his policy towards the region.
On Friday, Biden participated in a virtual event with the leaders of India, Japan and Australia, with whom he pledged to keep the India-Pacific region “free and open” in the face of the advances of China, which sees this area as part of its sphere of influence and key to the transit of energy resources.
Beyond China policy, the other major theme of Blinken and Austin’s trip will be North Korea policy.
This Saturday, a senior U.S. official revealed to the press that the Biden Administration has been trying since mid-February to contact North Korea through different channels, including its mission to the United Nations, but has received no response.
Biden has not yet explained what his approach to North Korea will be and his administration is currently talking with former officials, including some from the Donald Trump Administration (2017-2021), to see how best to respond to its alleged nuclear program and ballistic missile launch.
In 2018, North Korea and the United States began a negotiation process that led to two summits between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un: the first in June 2018 in Singapore and the second in February 2019 in Hanoi, which ended without an agreement on the denuclearization process.