Asia Minute: Trump Administration Keeps Southeast Asia on Diplomatic Radar

Aug 9, 2017

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President Trump remains on what the White House calls a “working vacation” this week, but members of his cabinet are on the job full time. That includes Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is wrapping up a short trip to Asia. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


While North Korea dominates headlines, the Trump Administration is being careful to keep Southeast Asia on its diplomatic radar.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson started his week at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Manila.

The ASEAN Regional Forum is one of the few international groups whose membership includes North Korea.

One of its stated objectives resonates with timeliness this week: contributing to “preventive diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region.”

After those meetings, Tillerson flew to Thailand—the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit since a military coup in 2014.

Next stop: Malaysia.

Isolating North Korea has been a consistent theme on this trip, but the broader context is one of U.S. regional engagement in the Asia Pacific.

Other cabinet members have traveled most frequently to Japan and South Korea, but also to Indonesia, Singapore, Australia as well as the South Asian countries of India and Pakistan.

As for Donald Trump, it looks like his first Asia Pacific travel as president won’t come until November—with an emphasis on Southeast Asia.

The White House says the president will attend the U.S.-ASEAN summit and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines. To be followed by the leaders meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, APEC, in Vietnam.