US Defense Secretary To Visit Asia To Focus On Strengthening Ties With Japan, Korea, India

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will embark on a three nation tour in the Indo-Pacific region this week to discuss the strengthening of existing partnerships and alliances there.

The Defense Department announced that Austin will depart on Saturday to visit the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii, followed by visits with officials in Japan, South Korea, and India.

This will be Austin’s first international trip as US Defense secretary.

“This trip is about working to revitalize our alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, in particular with Japan and South Korea,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said during a briefing Wednesday. “We want to reenergize our commitment to those treaty alliances. And that’s really the message going forward; we know we need strong allies and partners and friends in that part of the world,” he added.

In both Japan and Korea, the secretary of defense will be accompanied by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken during meetings with government officials.

The U.S. maintains positive relations with both South Korea and Japan, but in recent years, these two nations have experienced some diplomatic challenges that could weaken security cooperation in the region. In 2011, South Korea announced plans to not renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA — an intelligence-sharing agreement between the two countries. While South Korea later reconsidered that decision, tensions still exist between Japan and South Korea.

“Recognizing that there are tensions between those two countries, we still encourage them to work together, and we look forward to exploring trilateral ways where we can all work together to address security challenges in the region,” Kirby told reporters.

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