JAKARTA (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will visit Japan and Indonesia as part of an Asian tour next month, sources said on Monday, amid concerns the Trump administration is rolling back Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which was seen as an economic pillar of the strategy.
A Trump administration official told Reuters: “The vice president is going to Asia next month I believe.”
The tour will include South Korea and Australia, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, with North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and South Korea’s political crisis likely topics for discussion.
China has been infuriated by South Korea’s plan to deploy a U.S. missile defense system targeted at the North Korean threat. South Korea is also going through political turmoil after a court removed President Park Geun-hye from office over a graft scandal.
Pence is also expected to visit Tokyo for a U.S.-Japan economic dialogue, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The visit will come as North Korea’s latest missile launches and the assassination in Malaysia of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother add urgency to the region’s security.
It will also follow this month’s trip by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Japan, South Korea, and China.
The TPP had been the main economic pillar of the Obama administration’s pivot to the Asia-Pacific region in the face of a fast-rising China.
Proponents of the pact have expressed concerns that abandoning the project, which took years to negotiate, could strengthen China’s economic hand in the region at the expense of the United States.
Indonesia’s chief security minister said Pence would meet President Joko Widodo to discuss terrorism and other security issues.
Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and has recently grappled with a series of low-level militant attacks inspired by Islamic State.
“We discussed the planned visit of U.S. vice president Mike Pence to Indonesia and the strategic problems that can be on the agenda to discuss with our president,” chief security minister Wiranto told reporters after meeting the U.S. ambassador to Jakarta.
He added that no dates have been finalized.
In Indonesia, Pence is also expected to discuss a brewing contract dispute between the government and American mining group Freeport McMoRan Inc, said two Indonesian government sources.
Freeport has threatened to take the Indonesian government to court over newly revised mining regulations that have prompted a major scale-back in its operations in the eastern province of Papua.
Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Kanupriya Kapoor; Additional reporting by Malcolm Foster in Tokyo and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Nick Macfie and Jeffrey Benkoe