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 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 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

  • "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

  • "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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