United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday, kicking off his first Asian trip that will also take him to the Republic of Korea and China.
Tillerson is scheduled to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday. They are expected to discuss Japan's plans to step up missile defense and the possible deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, as well as President Donald Trump's concerns about the US trade imbalance with Japan, Reuters reported.
During his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, US Trade Representative-designate Robert Lighthizer indicated that the US will push Japan to further open its agriculture sector, according to the Kyodo News.
"I would list, of course, Japan as being a primary target for a place where increased access for agriculture is important," Lighthizer said.
Lighthizer made the remarks after the Trump administration accused Japan last week of maintaining nontariff barriers for its automobile market and imposing high import tariffs for foreign farm products.
The US may also demand a further opening of Japan's farm market during high-level economic talks the two governments are planning to start in mid-April, when US Vice-President Mike Pence visits Japan.
In Seoul on Friday, Tillerson is scheduled to meet ROK Prime Minister and interim president Hwang Kyoahn and Foreign Minister Yun Byungse, with no schedule for meetings with opposition figures. That raises questions about the durability of any agreements, Reuters said.
On the eve of Tillerson's Asia trip, US Acting Assistant Secretary of State Susan Thornton said in Washington on Monday that former president Barack Obama's "pivot to the Pacific" effort is officially dead, and the Trump administration has its own plan for the region, even if that plan has yet to take shape.