Kerry planning to visit Japan, China, South Korea in April


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Japan, China and South Korea in April on his first Asian trip since taking office Feb. 1, U.S. spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.

In talks with the new leaders of each of the three countries, Kerry “will continue to affirm the (Obama) administration’s commitment to further broaden and enhance U.S. economic, security and strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region,” Nuland said at a regular news conference at the State Department.

In Tokyo, Kerry will hold talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida over the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact and North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats.

In Beijing, he is expected to meet with new Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials to discuss North Korean issues, as well as bilateral political and economic cooperation. Kerry will meet with newly inaugurated South Korean President Park Geun Hye in Seoul for talks on defense issues in light of Pyongyang’s recent missile and nuclear provocations.

Details of Kerry’s Asia tour, which will follow an April 10-11 Group of Eight meeting in London, haven’t been revealed.

In late June, Kerry plans to visit Brunei to attend a meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum, Nuland said. The ARF is a security dialogue framework between the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and such countries as the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and India.

Separately Thursday, the Pentagon said U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will visit Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia for five days from Sunday.

The trips by Kerry and Carter are intended to demonstrate that there is no change in the importance the U.S. attached to ties with the Asia-Pacific region after new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took office late last month, officials of the department said.

While in Japan, Carter will meet with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and other officials to exchange views on issues related to the long-stalled relocation of the Futenma base.