Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departs Wednesday for a three-nation, four-day visit to Asia, starting in Japan, moving to South Korea, and finishing in China. The focus of all three stops is expected to be North Korea, which has ratcheted up tensions in the region by test-firing several medium-range ballistic missiles toward Japan.
In Tokyo, Tillerson will meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, and will seek to reassure Japan that the Trump administration will stay engaged. He will carry similar assurances about North Korea to Seoul, which is in political upheaval after the impeachment and removal of President Park Geun-hye last week. Her successor after May 9 elections is expected to be a liberal candidate seeking a more conciliatory posture toward Pyongyang. In Beijing, Tillerson will lay the groundwork for President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Washington, and he's expected to urge China to do more to rein in North Korea's nuclear belligerence.
Breaking with 50 years of tradition, Tillerson isn't bringing the diplomatic press corps with him on his airplane, or even a few "pool" reporters, as he did on his first two official trips abroad. Originally, the State Department said that Tillerson, who has kept an unusually low profile, would travel with no reporters, citing his small plane and calling it a cost-saving measure — though reporters pay market price for their seats, costing taxpayers nothing. But now he is flying with one journalist, Erin McPike of the conservative Independent Journal Review. The State Department Correspondents' Association said Wednesday that it is "disappointed" Tillerson isn't bringing even a single pool reporter on his plane.
U.S. reporters will still cover Tillerson's three stops, flying commercially and meeting up with him in each capital. You can watch three of them, from CNN, offer a preview of Tillerson's Asia trip in the video below. Peter Weber