Speaking Friday in the U.S., Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, David Stilwell called America’s relationship with regional economic powerhouse Japan “the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific.”
Stilwell made the comment in referring to next week’s upcoming visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during which President Trump’s right hand man would also visit the South Korean capital Seoul, and Mongolia.
Pompeo, currently in eastern Europe, is due to arrive in Japan on Monday.
The trip to Tokyo is being seen by some in the Japanese capital as an indicator of the ongoing importance of U.S. – Japan ties and a chance to offer President Trump’s congratulations to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on replacing Shinzo Abe in September.
Concerns about Pompeo having seen the now COVID-19 positive Donald Trump were soon allayed, however, with the Secretary of State saying he had not seen Mr. Trump in person for over two weeks.
At a time much of East Asia is becoming increasingly concerned about Chinese territorial aspirations, particularly in northern India and over the Taiwan Strait towards Taiwan, the relationship between Washington and Beijing is at its lowest ebb in decades.
Human rights issues and trade differences are increasingly coming to the fore along with accusations over the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic flying in both directions in recent months.
So with U.S. allies in the region headed by Japan eyeing increasingly aggressive Chinese moves, the visit to the region by the man fourth in line to replace Mr. Trump if needed flying over the Chinese capital without stopping is being heralded as a major snub in some circles, albeit one that can only increase tensions further.