Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and US-Asia Pacific Relations

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Coordinator: Sarah Wang. For methodology, click here.

This resource will track statements, developments, visits and other interactions in US-Asia Pacific relations given or undertaken by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. 

To view quotations, debriefs of interactions with Asia Pacific leaders, and media sorted by topic, scroll down or use the links below.

Travel to Asia Pacific Countries Asia Pacific Leaders Asia Pacific Allies & Partners
China/Taiwan Human Rights & Democracy North Korea
South China Sea Southeast Asia/ASEAN Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN
Trade & Investnment    

To view the positions of President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of Commerce Ross, and Secretary of State Tillerson on various issues in US-Asia Pacific relations, click here.

To view quotations, interviews, and policy documents given by and interactions with Asia Pacific leaders undertaken by President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary of Defense Mattis, and Secretary of Commerce Ross use the links below.

President Donald J. Trump Vice President Mike Pence Secretary of Defense James Mattis
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Jr.    

To examine Asian reactions to ongoing developments in US-Asia relations and the US 2016 Presidential election, click here.

To explore previous quotations, views on Asia Pacific issues, and other connections to Asia from President Trump, Vice President Pence, and other candidates in the 2016 Presidential Election, click here.

Travel to Asia Pacific Countries

  • Japanese Flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.comSouth Korean flag. Image: http://www.flaticon.comChinese flag. Image: www.flaticon.com Japan, South Korea, and China in March 2017. 

Asia Pacific Leaders

  • On April 10, 2017 on the outskirts of the G-7 Summit in Italy, Secretary Tillerson met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Minister Kishida supported the United States' recent military strike against Syria and both agreed that China needs to play a larger role in checking North Korea's aggressions in the region. 
  • On March 22, 2017, Secretary Tillerson hosted the "Global Coalition-Working to Defeat ISIS" meeting in Washington, DC. The Coalition, made up of 68 member countries, "are united in common cause to defeat ISIS through a robust approach, including working by, with, and through local partners for military operations; supporting the stabilization of territory liberated from ISIS; and, enhancing international cooperation against ISIS’ global objectives through information sharing, law enforcement cooperation, severing ISIS’ financing, countering violent extremist recruitment, and neutralizing ISIS' narrative." Asian member countries of the Coalition include: Afghanistan, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan.
  • On March 22, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the State Department to discuss US-Singapore relations. 

 

  • On March 21, 2017 Secretary Tillerson met with Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman at the State Department. 

 

  • On March 18, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi during his first trip to the Asia Pacific region. During these three meetings, Secretary Tillerson and his counterparts emphasized the opportunities for future cooperation between China and the United States following the historic opening under President Nixon 40 years ago, including on countering the North Korean threat. 

 

 

 

 

 

  • On March 16, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida in Japan during his first trip to the Asia Pacific region. They discussed the US-Japan alliance and working to counter the threat posed by North Korea. To watch Secretary Tillerson's press conference with Foreign Minister Kishida, click here

 

  • On March 10, 2017 Secretary Tillerson met with the ambassadors of the 10 ASEAN member states.

 

  • On March 3, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to discuss H-1B visas and other issues of concern in the US-India bilateral relationship.
  • On February 28, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi to discuss areas of mutual concern including facilitating continued economic engagement and North Korea. 
  • On February 22, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop at the State Department to discuss areas of mutual concern such as the ongoing coflicts in Iraq and Syria.  
  • On February 21, 2017, Secretary Tillerson spoke on the phone with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi concerning North Korea and potential areas of cooperation. 
  • On February 17, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the outskirts of the G-20 Summit in Bonn, Germany. They discussed the North Korean threat and agreed to continue working towards a productive bilateral relationship. 
  • On February 16, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se and Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida in Bonn, Germany during the G-20 Summit. Together they issued a joint statement condemning North Korea's recent ballistic missile test and agreed to enhance trilateral security cooperation against the North Korean nuclear threat.
  • On February 15, 2017, Secretary Tillerson spoke with Indian External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj. During their phone call, they agreed to continue working to build greater cooperation between the United States and India, including defense, energy, and the economy.
  • On February 10, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the US Department of State. During the meeting, they reaffirmed that the Senaku Islands are covered by Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty. 
  • On February 9, 2017, Secretary Tillerson reaffirmed the United States' "strong relationship" with its longtime partner Singapore during a phone call with Singaporean Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan. 
  • On February 7, 2017, Secretary Tillerson spoke with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. During each phone call, Secretary Tillerson emphasized the United States' commitment to with each country and the necessity of cooperation on areas of mutual concern such as the South China Sea and North Korea.

Asia Pacific Allies & Partners

  • On April 10, 2017 on the outskirts of the G-7 Summit in Italy, Secretary Tillerson met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. Minister Kishida supported the United States' recent military strike against Syria and both agreed that China needs to play a larger role in checking North Korea's aggressions in the region. 
  • On March 22, 2017, Secretary Tillerson hosted the "Global Coalition-Working to Defeat ISIS" meeting in Washington, DC. The Coalition, made up of 68 member countries, "are united in common cause to defeat ISIS through a robust approach, including working by, with, and through local partners for military operations; supporting the stabilization of territory liberated from ISIS; and, enhancing international cooperation against ISIS’ global objectives through information sharing, law enforcement cooperation, severing ISIS’ financing, countering violent extremist recruitment, and neutralizing ISIS' narrative." Asian member countries of the Coalition include: Afghanistan, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan.
  • On March 22, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the State Department to discuss US-Singapore relations. 

 

  • On March 21, 2017 Secretary Tillerson met with Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman at the State Department. 

 

  • "Well, Japan is — because of the size of their economy — they are our most important ally in the region, because of the standpoint of both security issues, economic issues, stability issues. So that’s not anything new. That’s been the situation now, for decades. South Korea, similarly, is an important partner relative to stability of northeast Asia. Japan has a larger footprint in the Asian Pacific region so, obviously, those relationships are where our common interests are aligned. The attention on South Korea early in this administration has been dominated by the actions of North Korea, and that’s taken a lot of careful time and attention. Japan, also, is obviously an important element of that trilateral relationship." [Source] Interview with Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike. March 18, 2017
  • On March 17, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Acting South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se during his first trip to the Asia Pacific region. They discussed the US-Korean alliance and working to counter the threat posed by North Korea. 

 

  • On March 16, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida in Japan during his first trip to the Asia Pacific region. They discussed the US-Japan alliance and working to counter the threat posed by North Korea. To watch Secretary Tillerson's press conference with Foreign Minister Kishida, click here

 

  • On March 10, 2017 Secretary Tillerson met with the ambassadors of the 10 ASEAN member states.
  • On March 3, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to discuss H-1B visas and other issues of concern in the US-India bilateral relationship.
  • On February 22, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop at the State Department to discuss areas of mutual concern such as the ongoing coflicts in Iraq and Syria.  
  • On February 16, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se and Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida in Bonn during the G-20 conference. Together they issued a joint statement condemning North Korea's recent ballistic missile test and agreed to enhance trilateral security cooperation against the North Korean nuclear threat.
  • On February 15, 2017, Secretary Tillerson spoke with Indian External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj. During their phone call, they agreed to continue working to build greater cooperation between the United States and India, including defense, energy, and the economy.
  • On February 9, 2017, Secretary Tillerson reaffirmed the United States' "strong relationship" with its longtime partner Singapore during a phone call with Singaporean Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan. 

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) as to whether the US would respond militarily to a violation of Article 5 under the US-Japan Security Treaty.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) on President Trump's comments that allies such as Japan and South Korea should acquire their own nuclear weapons.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on whether the extrajudicial killings being undertaken in the Philippines under the Duterte administration human rights violations. 

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) on whether he would call the extrajudicial killings being undertaken in the Philippines under the Duterte administration human rights violations.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) on if he were given information by State Department operatives that confirmed the actions undertaken by the Duterte administration in the Philippines were human rights violations that that would determine his ruling on the matter. 

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) on whether he agreed with President Trump's statement concerning Japan and South Korea acquiring nuclear weapons of their own.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) on what his policies towards North Korea would be, including sanctions, aiding US allies, and working with China.

China/Taiwan

  • "[...I]t depends on how they [China] view those strategic ambitions and whether those present a threat to stability for the rest of the world or not. And I think a specific example, obviously, is their activity towards island-building in the South China Sea and in particular their militarization of those islands. We have had very, very frank conversations and exchanges with the Chinese around these activities and our view that this destabilizes the area of the South China Sea rather than creates stability." [Source] Interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR. April 27, 2017
  • "Well, I think we need to understand one another and understand that China is on a pathway of continuing to emerge with their own people in terms of providing a quality of life to their own population. They’ve made enormous progress over the last 10 to 15 years – 500 million Chinese have moved out of poverty into middle-class status. Our understanding of them – and I think they need to have an understanding of us – is that we do not seek to constrain their need to continue their economic growth and to continue to help their people enjoy a better quality of life. As they are pursuing that, though, they have to do that in a way that supports stability around the rest of the world as well." [Source] Interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR. April 27, 2017
  • "Well, it’s extraordinarily important, first to just the broader relationship of where U.S.-China relations are going to find themselves over the next two to three to four decades. I think we are at a bit of an inflection point in the U.S.-China relationship. Now, North Korea is a threat that presents itself right up front to both of us, and in our conversations with the Chinese, and we have been very clear to them – I was on my initial trips to Beijing and then in the visit of President Xi to Mar-a-Lago, the President and I were able to be very clear to them – that things have to change in North Korea and we need their help doing that. What China is beginning to reevaluate is whether North Korea is any kind of an asset to them or whether North Korea themselves and the regime have become a liability to China’s own security – because, as I’ve said to my Chinese counterparts, those missiles go in all directions." [Source] Interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR. April 27, 2017
  • "We know that China is in communications with the regime in Pyongyang. They confirmed to us that they had requested the regime conduct no further nuclear test; and in fact, we were told by the Chinese that they informed the regime that if they did conduct a further nuclear test, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own. So I think the Chinese seem to be willing to work with us. We hope they are. We believe that they are an important element to us causing the regime to take a different view towards future talks." [SourceInterview with Bret Baier of Fox News. April 27, 2017
  • "We obviously had direct talks with the Chinese during President Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago. I first spoke to the Chinese on my first trip to Beijing to make clear to them that we were unwilling to negotiate our way to the negotiating table. And I think that’s the mistakes of the past – that the regime in North Korea has to position itself in a different place in order for us to be willing to engage in talks. We are asking a lot of the Chinese. I think in the past, the assumption has been the Chinese would only take limited action. We’re going to test that assumption. We’re going to test their willingness to help us address this serious threat that it’s not only one to the region and to us, but is becoming a threat to China themselves. And so we’re asking that they evaluate the situation. But I think what’s different is we have expanded the network of calling on others to fully implement the sanctions under the UN Security Council resolutions, which have never been fully implemented. So we’re holding people accountable to implementing these sanctions, and we are broadening our call to other nations to put pressure on Pyongyang, because Pyongyang’s missiles can now go in any direction. And this is a threat that is now moving out of the region and it’s becoming global." [Source] Interview with Bret Baier of Fox News. April 27, 2017
  • "I can tell you that President Trump, President Xi had very extensive discussions regarding the serious situation in North Korea. They met for quite some time one-on-one to discuss North Korea, and there was a full range of options that were discussed between the two leaders. President Xi expressed agreement that the situation has reached a new level of seriousness and threat. He expressed the view that he wanted to be supportive in terms of causing the regime in Pyongyang to change its view around the future need for those weapons. China has expressed on multiple occasions and they reaffirmed it in our discussions with us here in Mar-a-Lago that their policy is unchanged, and that is for a denuclearized Korean peninsula. [...] . It’s only been a couple of weeks since we announced our policy changes and have called on the Government of China to take additional steps. We expect that they will. They have indicated that they will. And I think we need to allow them time to take actions." [Source] Interview with George Stephanopoulos of APC This Week. April 9, 2017
  • "I can-- I can tell you that both the president-- presidents had extensive discussions around the dangerous situation in North Korea. They had a very lengthy exchange on-- on the subject yesterday morning. I think it was a very useful and productive exchange. President Xi clearly understands, and-- and I think agrees, that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken. And, indeed, the Chinese, even themselves, have said that they do not believe the conditions are right today to engage in discussions with the government in Pyongyang.  And so what I think we’re hopeful is that we can work together with the Chinese to change the conditions in the minds of-- of the DPRK leadership. And then, at that point, perhaps discussions may be useful. But I think there’s a shared view and no disagreement as to how dangerous the situation has become. And I think even China is beginning to recognize that this presents a threat to even-- to-- to China’s interests as well." [Source] Interview with Face the Nation following Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting with President Trump. April 9, 2017
  • "High on the list of our [ President Trump's] priorities [for his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping] is an economic relationship that is fair on both sides. Today will be a time to exchange candid views on the nature of the US-China relationship, and we look forward to additional discussions in the future on topics of mutual importance. [...] To that end, we will pursue economic engagement with China that prioritises the economic well-being of the American people." [Source] Remarks to reporters at West Palm Beach Airport as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for his meeting with President Trump. April 7, 2017
  • "We are hopeful that China will find ways to exercise influence over North Korea's actions to dismantle their nuclear weapons and their missile technology programs. Whether it's using their authority on the UN Security Council or utilising new levers of power, China can be part of a new strategy to end North Korea's reckless behaviour and ensure security, stability, and economic prosperity in Northeast Asia." [SourceRemarks to reporters at West Palm Beach Airport as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for his meeting with President Trump. April 7, 2017

On April 6, 2017, Secretary Tillerson emphasized the importance of a strong US-China relationship during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the United States to meet with President Trump. A readout of his taped remarks below can be viewed here

  • "No one issue defines the relationship between the U.S. and China. We will be talking about a broad range of issues when I’m in Beijing. But the threat of North Korea is imminent. And it has reached a level that we are very concerned about the consequences of North Korea being allowed to continue on this progress it’s been making on the development of both weapons and delivery systems. And it’s reached a very alarming state to us. So it is getting a lot of discussion up front because it’s imminent. We have a broad range of issues that define the relationship. This is but one. There are others, and you listed them. All of them have their importance in the U.S.-China relationship, but this one — as I said — just happens to have bubbled to the top because of the recent actions that have been taken by North Korea." [SourceInterview with Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike. March 18, 2017
  • " Well, again, I think that requires more conversations by the two leaders and a greater understanding from both sides as to their priorities, ours, their aspirations and ours. I do think we’re at somewhat of a historic moment in the U.S.-China relationship. It has been defined for the past 40 years by the opening of China, the Nixon-Kissinger visit. During that time, by and large, the U.S. and China have found a way to exist together in this world, to deal with our conflicts. We’ve never fought a war with each other, other than on the Korean peninsula. That’s the only time we’ve fought a war with each other. And even as China’s country and economy have grown, and now occupies its place in the global economy, we have always managed to exist with one another in a spirit of non-conflict. It doesn’t mean we don’t have differences, but we’ve always found ways to either resolve them or to live with them. Accept that we have differences and move on and still do what’s in the best interest of our people, and China in the best interest of theirs. But I do think because of what is happening globally with people in the world over — globalization itself — that we’re at perhaps at an inflection point in the relationship of global powers in general. And I do think that the Chinese and the U.S. need to have a fresh conversation about what will define the relationship between the United States and China for the next 50 years. We can look back and see how successful we’ve been, 40 years of what I would say has been a very successful relationship with two very powerful nations living with one another without conflict. But now we find that there are issues arising that have gone unresolved. And I think how we are able to talk about those and how we are able to chart our course forward is going to set, potentially, the relationship in a new era of existing together without conflict, in an era of non-conflict. Again, it doesn’t mean we won’t have differences, but we will find how are we going to live with one another for the next 50 years. Because I think there’s a question, perhaps even in the minds of the Chinese: How will the American people, the Chinese people, live with each other in this world for the next half century?" [SourceInterview with Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike. March 18, 2017
  • "Well, that is one among several issues attached to North Korea [refugees], but also attached to a broader, I think, view that we would want to take with China regarding treatment of people under that broad category of human rights. The American people’s commitment to human rights and championing of people the world over — it’s embedded in everything we do. I never have viewed that it sits out here as something to the side that we somehow have to deal with it separately. It really is a part of every policy that we’re discussing, whether it’s economic or security or whatever the policy may be. Embedded in all of those is always with us is the protection of people, advocating for people’s freedom, advocating for a better life for others. That is just a part of the American values system that is part of every policy discussion we have. So it will always be ever-present in our conversations with the Chinese." [SourceInterview with Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike. March 18, 2017
  • On March 18, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Chinese President Xi JinpingChinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi during his first trip to the Asia Pacific region. During these three meetings, Secretary Tillerson and his counterparts emphasized the opportunities for future cooperation between China and the United States following the historic opening under President Nixon 40 years ago, including on countering the North Korean threat

 

 

 

  • On February 28, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi to discuss areas of mutual concern including facilitating continued economic engagement and North Korea. 
  • On February 21, 2017, Secretary Tillerson spoke on the phone with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi concerning North Korea and potential areas of cooperation. 
  • On February 17, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the outskirts of the G-20 Summit in Bonn, Germany. They discussed the North Korean threat and agreed to continue working towards a productive bilateral relationship.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson discussed China's lack of enforcement on issues concerning North Korea.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson discussed security and trade concerns surrounding China but also touched on the necessity of positive relations with China.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on whether China is a human rights violator.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) on the Trump administration's Taiwan policy and the "One China policy."

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) on the South China Sea and China's activites there.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Todd Young (R-IN) on China's ability to check North Korea, particularly in regards to China's economic clout and sanctions.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) on what his policies towards North Korea would be, including sanctions, aiding US allies, and working with China.

Human Rights & Democracy

  • "Well, that is one among several issues attached to North Korea [refugees], but also attached to a broader, I think, view that we would want to take with China regarding treatment of people under that broad category of human rights. The American people’s commitment to human rights and championing of people the world over — it’s embedded in everything we do. I never have viewed that it sits out here as something to the side that we somehow have to deal with it separately. It really is a part of every policy that we’re discussing, whether it’s economic or security or whatever the policy may be. Embedded in all of those is always with us is the protection of people, advocating for people’s freedom, advocating for a better life for others. That is just a part of the American values system that is part of every policy discussion we have. So it will always be ever-present in our conversations with the Chinese." [SourceInterview with Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike. March 18, 2017

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on whether China is a human rights violator.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on whether the extrajudicial killings being undertaken in the Philippines under the Duterte administration human rights violations.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) on whether he would call the extrajudicial killings being undertaken in the Philippines under the Duterte administration human rights violations.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) on if he were given information by State Department operatives that confirmed the actions undertaken by the Duterte administration in the Philippines were human rights violations that that would determine his ruling on the matter.

North Korea

  • "Well, it’s extraordinarily important, first to just the broader relationship of where U.S.-China relations are going to find themselves over the next two to three to four decades. I think we are at a bit of an inflection point in the U.S.-China relationship. Now, North Korea is a threat that presents itself right up front to both of us, and in our conversations with the Chinese, and we have been very clear to them – I was on my initial trips to Beijing and then in the visit of President Xi to Mar-a-Lago, the President and I were able to be very clear to them – that things have to change in North Korea and we need their help doing that. What China is beginning to reevaluate is whether North Korea is any kind of an asset to them or whether North Korea themselves and the regime have become a liability to China’s own security – because, as I’ve said to my Chinese counterparts, those missiles go in all directions." [Source] Interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR. April 27, 2017
  • "We have been very clear as to what our objectives are and equally clear what our objectives are not. And we do not seek regime change. We do not seek a collapse of the regime. We do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. We seek a denuclearized Korean peninsula, and again, that is entirely consistent with the objectives of others in the region as well." [Source] Interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR. April 27, 2017
  • "We don’t have any redlines. I think what you’re talking about, perhaps, is how do we get there. And we say we can’t begin the process of getting there until North Korea comes to the table with a willingness to talk about how we get there and how they achieve their objective. If you listen to the North Koreans and the regime of Pyongyang, their reason for having nuclear weapons is they believe it is their only pathway to secure the ongoing existence of their regime. What we hope to convince them is you do not need these weapons to secure the existence of your regime." [Source] Interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR. April 27, 2017
  • "Well, our goal is the same as that of China, which is a denuclearized Korean peninsula. A denuclearized Korean peninsula. It’s very clear. That’s China’s stated policy. It has been our stated policy. It’s been the stated policy of our allies in the region. And I would quickly add we did our part. We took our nuclear weapons out of the Korean peninsula. It’s time for North Korea to take their weapons out as well. [...] Nothing less.[Source] Interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR. April 27, 2017
  • "Yes, our approach to North Korea is to have them change their posture towards any future talks. And I think when we say the era of strategic patience is over, in the past, I think we have always negotiated our way to the negotiating table. So when they act up, we would negotiate our way to get them to come to the table and then decide what we’re going to give them to have them behave. We don’t have the running room left to do that now given how far advanced their program has become. So this is an approach that is to put pressure on them through implementation of all the sanctions, as well as other diplomatic pressures and calling on others, to cause them to change their view of what will really allow them to achieve the security that they say they seek. [...] Obviously, that would be the way we would like to solve this, but North Korea has to decide they’re ready to talk to us about the right agenda. And the right agenda is not simply stopping where they are for a few more months or a few more years and then resuming things. That’s been the agenda for the last 20 years." [Source] Interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR. April 27, 2017
  • "[...A]ll indications are that he [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] is not crazy. He may be ruthless. He may be a murderer. He may be someone who in many respects we would say by our standards is irrational. But he is not insane. And indications are in the past, and when certain events have happened, he has taken rational – he’s made rational choices. Now, we don’t have a long history with this young leader, only about five years, so we recognize we are dealing with a relative level of unknown and uncertainty. That is part of the risk that the President has been willing to take in this approach." [SourceInterview with Bret Baier of Fox News. April 27, 2017
  • "We know that China is in communications with the regime in Pyongyang. They confirmed to us that they had requested the regime conduct no further nuclear test; and in fact, we were told by the Chinese that they informed the regime that if they did conduct a further nuclear test, China would be taking sanctions actions on their own. So I think the Chinese seem to be willing to work with us. We hope they are. We believe that they are an important element to us causing the regime to take a different view towards future talks." [SourceInterview with Bret Baier of Fox News. April 27, 2017
  • "Well, the regime in the past has indicated the reason they pursue nuclear weapons is they feel that is the only way to ensure their survival as a regime. We want to change that view of theirs. We want to change that calculus of theirs. And we have said to them that your pathway to survival and security is to eliminate your nuclear weapons, and we and other countries will be prepared to help you on a pathway of economic development and become a stable, secure part of a stable, prosperous Northeast Asia. Now, that is how we de-risk North Korea to China as well, as I think it’s well understood China has concerns about destabilizing the regime in North Korea due to possible impacts of a failed regime. We have been very clear we do not seek regime change in North Korea, we’re not seeking a collapse of the regime, we are not seeking to find some excuse for an accelerated reunification of the peninsula. What we are seeking is the same thing China has said they seek: a full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." [Source] Interview with Bret Baier of Fox News. April 27, 2017
  • "We obviously had direct talks with the Chinese during President Xi’s visit to Mar-a-Lago. I first spoke to the Chinese on my first trip to Beijing to make clear to them that we were unwilling to negotiate our way to the negotiating table. And I think that’s the mistakes of the past – that the regime in North Korea has to position itself in a different place in order for us to be willing to engage in talks. We are asking a lot of the Chinese. I think in the past, the assumption has been the Chinese would only take limited action. We’re going to test that assumption. We’re going to test their willingness to help us address this serious threat that it’s not only one to the region and to us, but is becoming a threat to China themselves. And so we’re asking that they evaluate the situation. But I think what’s different is we have expanded the network of calling on others to fully implement the sanctions under the UN Security Council resolutions, which have never been fully implemented. So we’re holding people accountable to implementing these sanctions, and we are broadening our call to other nations to put pressure on Pyongyang, because Pyongyang’s missiles can now go in any direction. And this is a threat that is now moving out of the region and it’s becoming global." [Source] Interview with Bret Baier of Fox News. April 27, 2017
  • "One of the first topics that he [President Trump] asked the National Security Council to address was the threat of North Korea. We’ve put in place a very deliberate strategy which we are just in the early stages of executing, and it is one that does involve bringing significant pressure to bear on the regime in Pyongyang. It also involves calling on China to play a role in how we deal with this threat. So again, you’re right; tensions are running a bit high right now. We expected they would. And our approach to addressing this issue, we know there’s going to be risk involved. Those risks are very measured. We shared those with the President. He’s been very deliberate about the actions that he’s asked us to take, and we’ll see how this all plays out." [Source] Interview with Bret Baier of Fox News. April 27, 2017
  • "Past efforts have failed to halt North Korea’s unlawful weapons programs and nuclear and ballistic missile tests. With each provocation, North Korea jeopardizes stability in Northeast Asia and poses a growing threat to our allies and the U.S. homeland. North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority. Upon assuming office, President Trump ordered a thorough review of U.S. policy pertaining to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). [...] We are engaging responsible members of the international community to increase pressure on the DPRK in order to convince the regime to de-escalate and return to the path of dialogue. We will maintain our close coordination and cooperation with our allies, especially the Republic of Korea and Japan, as we work together to preserve stability and prosperity in the region. The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal. However, we remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies." [Source] Joint Statement with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. April 26, 2017
  • "I can tell you that President Trump, President Xi had very extensive discussions regarding the serious situation in North Korea. They met for quite some time one-on-one to discuss North Korea, and there was a full range of options that were discussed between the two leaders. President Xi expressed agreement that the situation has reached a new level of seriousness and threat. He expressed the view that he wanted to be supportive in terms of causing the regime in Pyongyang to change its view around the future need for those weapons. China has expressed on multiple occasions and they reaffirmed it in our discussions with us here in Mar-a-Lago that their policy is unchanged, and that is for a denuclearized Korean peninsula. [...] . It’s only been a couple of weeks since we announced our policy changes and have called on the Government of China to take additional steps. We expect that they will. They have indicated that they will. And I think we need to allow them time to take actions." [Source] Interview with George Stephanopoulos of APC This Week. April 9, 2017
  • "And I think in terms of North Korea, we’ve been very clear that our objective is a denuclearized Korean peninsula. We have no objective to change the regime in North Korea; that is not our objective. And so the whole reasons underlying the development of a nuclear program in North Korea are simply not credible." [Source] Interview with George Stephanopoulos of APC This Week. April 9, 2017
  • "I can-- I can tell you that both the president-- presidents had extensive discussions around the dangerous situation in North Korea. They had a very lengthy exchange on-- on the subject yesterday morning. I think it was a very useful and productive exchange. President Xi clearly understands, and-- and I think agrees, that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken. And, indeed, the Chinese, even themselves, have said that they do not believe the conditions are right today to engage in discussions with the government in Pyongyang.  And so what I think we’re hopeful is that we can work together with the Chinese to change the conditions in the minds of-- of the DPRK leadership. And then, at that point, perhaps discussions may be useful. But I think there’s a shared view and no disagreement as to how dangerous the situation has become. And I think even China is beginning to recognize that this presents a threat to even-- to-- to China’s interests as well." [Source] Interview with Face the Nation following Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting with President Trump. April 9, 2017
  • "We are hopeful that China will find ways to exercise influence over North Korea's actions to dismantle their nuclear weapons and their missile technology programs. Whether it's using their authority on the UN Security Council or utilising new levers of power, China can be part of a new strategy to end North Korea's reckless behaviour and ensure security, stability, and economic prosperity in Northeast Asia." [SourceRemarks to reporters at West Palm Beach Airport as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for his meeting with President Trump. April 7, 2017
  • "North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment." [Source] Press Statement. April 4, 2017
  • "Our objective is a denuclearized Korean peninsula. A denuclearized Korean peninsula negates any thought or need for Japan to have nuclear weapons. We say all options are on the table, but we cannot predict the future. So we do think it's important that everyone in the region has a clear understanding that circumstances could evolve to the point that for mutual deterrence reasons, we might have to consider that. But as I said yesterday, there are a lot of … there’s a lot of steps and a lot of distance between now and a time that we would have to make a decision like that. Our objective is to have the regime in North Korea come to a conclusion that the reasons that they have felt they have had to develop nuclear weapons, those reasons are not well-founded. We want to change that understanding. With that, we do believe that if North Korea [were to] stand down on this nuclear program, that is their quickest means to begin to develop their economy and to become a vibrant economy for the North Korean people. If they don’t do that, they will have a very difficult time developing their economy. [...] Well, option one is to send very strong messages to North Korea by way of the sanctions — sanctions which have already been imposed by the UN Security Council resolutions — and to ask that everyone fully implement those sanctions. And there are additional steps that we can take to increase the pressure on the regime in hopes that they will understand the path they’re on is simply not sustainable. [...] Well, the first steps are the UN sanctions. There are broader sanctions that we can consider. I think that there are additional actions that the UN, that we can consider. There are broader participation by other countries in putting pressure on North Korea. So, this is a staged approach in which we want to give the North Korean government time to understand what’s happening, time to make decisions and adjust. We’re not … it’s not our objective to force them into some brash action. It’s our objective for them to understand things only continue to get more difficult if they don’t change their path. We want to give you time to change your path. [SourceInterview with Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike. March 18, 2017
  • "No one issue defines the relationship between the U.S. and China. We will be talking about a broad range of issues when I’m in Beijing. But the threat of North Korea is imminent. And it has reached a level that we are very concerned about the consequences of North Korea being allowed to continue on this progress it’s been making on the development of both weapons and delivery systems. And it’s reached a very alarming state to us. So it is getting a lot of discussion up front because it’s imminent. We have a broad range of issues that define the relationship. This is but one. There are others, and you listed them. All of them have their importance in the U.S.-China relationship, but this one — as I said — just happens to have bubbled to the top because of the recent actions that have been taken by North Korea." [SourceInterview with Independent Journal Review's Erin McPike. March 18, 2017
  • During his first visit to Japan on March 16, 2017, Secretary Tillerson discussed US policy towards North Korea at length during his press conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida. He stated that diplomacy has "failed" and working with Japan and South Korea to decide on a new approach was of vital importance. 

 

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson discussed China's lack of enforcement on issues concerning North Korea.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Todd Young (R-IN) on China's ability to check North Korea, particularly in regards to China's economic clout and sanctions.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) on what his policies towards North Korea would be, including sanctions, aiding US allies, and working with China.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) on President Trump's tweet regarding North Korea's ballistic missile program and whether that constituted a "red line."

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on whether the United States should lay down a stronger line in light of North Korea's continuing ballistic missile tests.

South China Sea

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) on the South China Sea and China's activites there.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) on whether he would support the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Southeast Asia/ASEAN

  • On March 10, 2017 Secretary Tillerson met with the ambassadors of the 10 ASEAN member states.
  • On February 9, 2017, Secretary Tillerson reaffirmed the United States' "strong relationship" with its longtime partner Singapore during a phone call with Singaporean Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan. 

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on whether the extrajudicial killings being undertaken in the Philippines under the Duterte administration human rights violations.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) on whether he would call the extrajudicial killings being undertaken in the Philippines under the Duterte administration human rights violations.

During his confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on January 11, 2017, Rex Tillerson was questioned by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) on if he were given information by State Department operatives that confirmed the actions undertaken by the Duterte administration in the Philippines were human rights violations that that would determine his ruling on the matter.

Summits - APEC, East Asia (EAS), & US-ASEAN

 

Trade & Investment

  • On February 28, 2017, Secretary Tillerson met with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi to discuss areas of mutual concern including facilitating continued economic engagement and North Korea. 

 

  • On February 15, 2017, Secretary Tillerson spoke with Indian External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj. During their phone call, they agreed to continue working to build greater cooperation between the United States and India, including defense, energy, and the economy.

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Methodology: Policy materials and quotations from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are limited to after January 11, 2017 when he underwent a confirmation hearing before the Senate. Should any quotations before the period be deemed relevant they will be indicated by an asterisk (*) after the date. In all cases, these additional quotations were made within the year prior to the start of the Trump Administration. Flag icons that indicate which countries members of the Trump administration have traveled to are provided by Freepik, accessed through www.flaticon.com.

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