Pompeo to visit East Asia next week amid frosty ties with China

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wears a protective face mask as he visits the Naval Support Activity base at Souda, Crete, Greece September 29, 2020. Aris Messinis/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Japan, Mongolia and South Korea next week, the State Department announced on Tuesday, a crucial visit to solidify ties with the regional allies at a time when Washington’s relationship with China remains fraught.

The visit is scheduled to take place Oct. 4 to 8 and will be Pompeo’s first time in East Asia since his trip to Thailand in July 2019. After flying to Japan, he will visit Mongolia on Oct. 6 and South Korea on Oct. 7 and 8, the State Department said.

As part of the trip on Oct. 6, Pompeo will participate in the second meeting of “Quad,” a gathering of foreign ministers from India, Australia and Japan. The Quad engagement was revived in 2017 to deepen security cooperation and coordinate alternatives for regional infrastructure financing offered by China.

Ties between China and the United States are at the lowest point in decades, with the world’s top two economies at loggerheads over issues ranging from China’s handling of the coronavirus to trade rivalries, new national security legislation in Hong Kong and tensions in the South China Sea.

Pompeo’s trip comes in the run-up to the November election, with President Donald Trump making a tough approach to China an important foreign policy platform as he seeks a second term in office.

A forceful and outspoken critic of China, Pompeo met Beijing’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, at a U.S. military base in Hawaii in June, but little progress was made and the ties continued to deteriorate.

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