Rex Tillerson visit Asia Mark Schiefelbein/Pool/Getty Images

Tillerson Goes to Asia

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to Asia represented an important opportunity to begin to address what could turn out to be the biggest international challenge the Trump administration will face in the next four years: North Korea's unrelenting push for deliverable nuclear weapons. He didn't seize it.

DENVER – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to Northeast Asia represented an important opportunity for Donald Trump’s administration to set out its strategy for that critical region. In particular, it was a chance to begin to address what could turn out to be the biggest international challenge the administration faces in the coming four years: North Korea’s unrelenting push for deliverable nuclear weapons, without sparking a conventional war on the Korean Peninsula.

It is difficult to say precisely what Tillerson achieved on his short visit. The taciturn statesman not only refused to bring reporters along on his plane (breaking with decades of precedent); he provided only brief public statements that do not paint a particularly detailed or comprehensive picture.

In South Korea, with the required trip to the demilitarized zone on his mind, Tillerson intoned that President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” with the North was over. In light of the “failed policies” of the past decades, he declared, “a different approach” would be needed. He concluded with a favorite statement of American policymakers when there seems no obvious way forward: “all options are on the table,” he said, implying that military action should also be considered.

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