US Secretary of State John Kerry will begin a trip this week to China, South Korea, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates, the US Department of State said on Sunday, at a time of high tensions in Asia over China’s increasingly assertive territorial claims.
The trip, which begins on Thursday and runs to Tuesday next week, will be Kerry’s fifth visit to Asia since he became secretary of state, and comes before a planned visit by US President Barack Obama in April to promote a strategic US “pivot” to the region announced in 2011.
Kerry will visit Seoul, Beijing, Jakarta and Abu Dhabi “to meet with senior government officials and address a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
In Beijing and Seoul, Kerry’s talks are expected to focus on an air defense zone China declared last year covering territory also claimed by South Korea and Japan, including uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. He is also expected to discuss concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program.
Psaki said Kerry would relay to Chinese officials “that the United States is committed to pursuing a positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship and welcomes the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China that plays a positive role in world affairs.”
He will also discuss North Korea and highlight the importance of US-China collaboration on climate change and clean energy, Psaki’s statement said.
During his stop in Seoul, Kerry will discuss North Korea and ways to expand US-South Korean cooperation on regional and global issues, the statement added.
In Jakarta, Kerry will co-chair the Joint Commission Meeting under the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership and meet with ASEAN’s secretary-general.