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By Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Japan, Mongolia and South Korea next week, the State Department said on Tuesday, a visit crucial to solidifying ties with the regional allies at a time when Washington’s relations with China remain strained.
The visit is scheduled for October 4-8 and will be Pompeo’s first visit to East Asia since his trip to Thailand in July 2019. After flying to Japan, he will travel to Mongolia on the 6th October and in South Korea on October 7. and 8, the State Department said.
As part of the October 6 trip, Pompeo will attend the second meeting of “Quad”, a gathering of foreign ministers from India, Australia and Japan. The Quad engagement was relaunched in 2017 to deepen security cooperation and coordinate regional infrastructure financing alternatives offered by China.
Ties between China and the United States are at their lowest in decades, with the world‘s two largest economies straddling issues ranging from China’s handling of the coronavirus to trade rivalries to new legislation on national security in Hong Kong and tensions in the South China Sea. .
Pompeo’s trip comes in the run-up to the November election, with President Donald Trump making a difficult approach to China an important foreign policy platform as he seeks a second term.
A strong and open critic of China, Pompeo met with Beijing’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi at a US military base in Hawaii in June, but little progress was made and ties continued to deteriorate.