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Pence to tour Asia next month amid security crises

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Author: ReutersTue, 2017-03-14ID: 1489441751298437000JAKARTA: US Vice President Mike Pence will visit Japan and Indonesia as part of an Asian tour next month, sources said on Monday, amid concerns the Trump administration is rolling back Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”US President Donald Trump has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which was seen as an economic pillar of the strategy.A Trump administration official said: “The vice president is going to Asia next month I believe.”The tour will include South Korea and Australia, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and South Korea’s political crisis likely topics for discussion.China has been infuriated by South Korea’s plan to deploy a US missile defense system targeted at the North Korean threat. South Korea is also going through political turmoil after a court removed President Park Geun-hye from office over a graft scandal.Pence is also expected to visit Tokyo for a US-Japan economic dialogue, according to a source familiar with the matter.The visit will come as North Korea’s latest missile launches add urgency to the region’s security.It will also follow this month’s trip by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Japan, South Korea and China.The TPP had been the main economic pillar of the Obama administration’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific region in the face of a fast-rising China.Proponents of the pact have expressed concerns that abandoning the project, which took years to negotiate, could strengthen China’s economic hand in the region at the expense of the US.A top Indonesian official said Pence would meet President Joko Widodo to discuss terrorism and other security issues.Indonesia has recently grappled with a series of low-level terrorist attacks.“We discussed the planned visit of Vice President Mike Pence to Indonesia and the strategic problems that can be on the agenda to discuss with our president,” Chief Security Minister Wiranto told reporters after meeting the US ambassador to Jakarta.He added that no dates have been finalized.In Indonesia, Pence is also expected to discuss a brewing contract dispute between the government and American mining group Freeport McMoRan Inc, said two Indonesian government sources.Freeport has threatened to take the Indonesian government to court over newly revised mining regulations that have prompted a major scale-back in its operations in the eastern province of Papua.US online media outlet Axios, meanwhile reported on Monday, that President Donald Trump is planning to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at a two-day summit next month at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort. The two-day meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 6-7, the US media outlet quoted officials familiar with the plans as saying.The planned summit would follow a string of other recent US-China meetings and conversations seeking to reaffirm ties following months of strong rhetoric from Trump.Reuters has not verified the Axios story and does not vouch for its accuracy. Representatives of the White House and for Xi could not be immediately reached for comment.
Main category: World

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