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WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is going ahead with a planned trip to Asia to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to its allies there, despite the news that President Donald Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Pompeo will depart Sunday for Japan, Mongolia, and South Korea. Pompeo spoke to reporters in Croatia, before returning to Washington Friday, telling them that he and his wife Susan had just tested negative for COVID1-9 and that he had last seen President Trump on Sept. 15. He said they are praying for a speedy recovery for the president and the first lady.
State Department Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Assistant Secretary David Stilwell briefed reporters by phone Friday on Pompeo's upcoming trip.
Stilwell said Pompeo's first stop will be Tokyo and that the timing is great because Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has just taken the helm. Stilwell said the U.S. sees the meeting as a reaffirmation of an ever-strengthening partnership.
"The U.S.-Japan relationship, as we said before, is the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity for the Indo-Pacific," Stilwell added.
Stilwell, the top American diplomat for East Asia, said Pompeo will attend a ministerial meeting in Tokyo of the Quad grouping of the United States, Japan, Australia, and India. China has denounced the Quad as an attempt to contain its development. The visit comes at a low point of U.S.-China relations, and Pompeo has been a forceful and outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party and what he views as Beijing's aggressive foreign policy.
Pompeo's second stop will be Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Stilwell said it will be his first trip to Mongolia. He believes it is Secretary Pompeo's first trip there as well; he said the U.S.supports Mongolia's efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions and human rights, including freedom of religion. He added:"Mongolia's democracy is a model for the region."
Stilwell said U.S.-Mongolia trade and investment ties are strong and growing stronger.
Pompeo's final stop is set to be Seoul, South Korea, as hopes are diminished of a breakthrough with North Korea over its nuclear program. Stilwell said the Republic of Korea is a key U.S. partner, with the relationship firmly grounded in shared values. The trip comes just one month before the November third U.S. presidential election. Pompeo's travel schedule has picked up in recent weeks after slowing down due to the coronavirus.