(ATF) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and newly appointed Defence secretary Lloyd Austin plan to visit Japan and South Korea this month for foreign policy and security talks, according to reports published on March 4.
While State department spokesman Ned Price told Reuters he was not able to confirm the trip reports, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the officials would visit Seoul for two days from March 17.
Last month, Blinken hinted at an imminent Japan trip, the Kyodo news agency noted.
In a related development, the US and Japan held bilateral security discussions by video teleconference on March 4.
"These discussions provided an opportunity for our two governments to demonstrate the strength and continued resilience of the US-Japan alliance," a State department statement said.
The statement included a reference to Tokyo's deep opposition to what the Japanese government sees as China's aggression in nearby waters.
"Both sides reiterated their strong opposition to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East and South China Seas, exchanging views and sharing their deep concerns over [China's] Coast Guard Law."
Blinken's first contacts after his confirmation were with the US's northern and southern neighbours.
On February 26, Blinken took his first "virtual trip" as Secretary of State virtually to reaffirm US ties with Mexico. The first stop on his video tour was to the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, and he also 'visited' the Mexican port of entry in Ciudad Juárez.
Blinken discouraged anyone considering illegal migration from making the dangerous journey across the border.
He also met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “The US and Canada, of course, are Arctic nations,” he said. “It really is a unique and important place where we have a responsibility.”
Meeting with Canadian Foreign minister Marc Garneau, the secretary stressed the goals of ending the Covid-19 pandemic and working to renew US-Canada relations.