Tillerson Points to Shift in US Foreign Policy Priorities

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 6, 2017

Murphy said Washington was not encouraging ASEAN states to formally cut diplomatic ties, but to examine the North Korean presence "where it clearly exceeds diplomatic needs".

At the meeting, Tillerson urged ASEAN foreign ministers to do more to help cut funding streams for North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and to minimize diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

But, Trump said, "We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very hard".

Although China, North Korea's traditional ally and main trading partner, is viewed as the key lever of worldwide influence, Southeast Asian nations have diplomatic relationships with Pyongyang and small-scale trade ties, and have sometimes served as conduits for North Korean activities that violate U.N. sanctions.

"We have been also consulting with the USA and other partners on ways to take strong, effective responses if North Korea commits an additional nuclear test, intercontinental ballistic missile launch or other strategic provocation".

Another official told VOA that while there has been some success regarding the "increased inspections to disrupt North Korea's illicit activities", more could be done. The US Statement Department also said South China Sea issues were discussed at the May 4 meeting.

And he cited as an example the murder with a nerve agent in February of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's brother Kim Jong-Nam in a Malaysian airport. He said this has galvanized concern in the region.

"We'll sanction them through third country sanctions".

Turning to US-Asean economic ties, he said Mr Tillerson told his counterpart that Washington is keen to step up engagement with the region. "The last thing we would like to see is to have a conflict break out due to some miscalculation", Manalo said. He still has not appointed policy directors for Asia, the Mideast or Russian Federation. "They are universal. Trump/Tillerson approach is green light for repression", tweeted Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations under President Obama.

In a press conference after the meeting, State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy reported Tillerson as saying this after making it clear that the Trump administration's aim is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

On the issue of the South China Sea, ASEAN has adopted a cautious approach recently, with a weekend summit avoiding references to China's building and arming of artificial islands there. The Philippines, which is now chair of ASEAN, has dialed back its once strong stance over China's assertive behavior and island-building. "To increase the DoD budget and decrease the State Department budget which, specific programs aside, the message that that sends is the USA will be engaging with the world with its military and not with its traditional diplomatic corps", Prasow said.

Before North Korea's latest weapons tests, Trump had made the battle to eradicate "radical Islamic terrorism the focus of his foreign policy".

They took note of efforts between the 10-member ASEAN and China toward an early conclusion of a "meaningful" code of conduct in the South China Sea as part of efforts to defuse tensions over the sea, in which Beijing has overlapping claims with its smaller neighbors such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

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