US Vice-President Pence plans four-nation Asia tour in April, but will skip China
US Vice-President Mike Pence plans to visit Japan and three other Asia-Pacific countries in April as part of efforts to underscore Washington’s continued engagement in the region, US media reported.
Quoting senior administration officials, CNN said Pence was expected to visit Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Australia next month. The Associated Press, citing a Pence aide, said the four-nation tour was scheduled for mid-April.
The envisaged tour, the first to the region since he took office on January 20, “represents a chance for Pence to smooth over relations with US allies who are adjusting to President Donald Trump’s new leadership style,” according to CNN.
Pence planned “to discuss Trump’s decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal that would have included Japan and Australia,” it said.
Referring to a visit to Japan, CNN quoted a senior Pence aide as saying the vice-president would look for “ways to strengthen the economy in Japan and the United States.”
The schedule did not include China, however a report by Axios Monday said Trump planned to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at his lavish Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, April 6 and 7.
Pence and his Japanese counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, were expected to begin a bilateral economic dialogue, a high-level forum that Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to launch during their White House meeting last month.
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The dialogue would cover trade and macroeconomic policy as well as infrastructure and energy projects. Officials do not rule out the possibility of exploring a bilateral free trade agreement.
Trump withdrew the United States from the 12-nation TPP in late January, saying he preferred bilateral trade deals to multilateral ones like the TPP. He slammed the pact as costing US jobs and harming American manufacturing.
The planned trip amid reports that Trump had picked William Hagerty as the next ambassador to Tokyo.
Tokyo’s consent would pave the way for Trump to announce his nomination of Hagerty, 57, in the near future. Hagerty was expected to assume the post following Senate approval, succeeding Caroline Kennedy.
Hagerty has built ties with Japan through a three-year posting to Tokyo while working for the Boston Consulting Group, as well as his work as commissioner of economic development for Tennessee, assisting operations in his home state by Japanese companies such as Nissan Motor Co. and Bridgestone Corp.
Pence’s planned trip to Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world, comes amid concern about Trump’s controversial travel ban against citizens from six Muslim-majority countries - Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Pence planned to visit South Korea as former president Park Geun-hye’s impeachment had created uncertainty about the country’s leadership and politics, especially as North Korea’s ballistic missile launches have posed a threat to peace and stability in the region.