Japan’s foreign minister said on Wednesday he personally regretted the departure of “frank, trustworthy” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ahead of a proposed summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
|Trump fired Tillerson on Tuesday. Reuters
Trump fired Tillerson on Tuesday after a series of public rifts over policy on North Korea and other issues, replacing him with loyalist Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo.
“He (Tillerson) was a frank, trustworthy counterpart and I thought we would deal with the North Korea issue together, but personally, I feel that this situation that has developed is unfortunate,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters in Tokyo.
“For sure, America holds the key, so I want to meet his successor as secretary of state soon and exchange views on North Korea and other matters,” Kono said.
Critics expressed dismay at the decision to swap out top diplomats so soon before the unprecedented potential meeting between Kim and Trump, and worried that Pompeo would encourage Trump to be hawkish on North Korea.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha decided to go ahead with a planned trip to Washington to discuss North Korea despite Tillerson’s departure, the ministry said in a text message. An official had earlier said she would cancel the visit.
Other South Korean officials, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that while Pompeo was known to have hardline views on North Korea, he was a seasoned politician and seemed to know how to compromise.
“We’re aware that Pompeo was one of the strongest voices in the talk of military action and fed Trump related assessments, but things have since changed a lot,” one senior official said, referring to upcoming inter-Korean talks and the prospect of a Kim-Trump summit. “So, we will see.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China hopes the change in personnel will not impact the development of relations and important areas of cooperation.
“We of course hope that the positive momentum on the Korean peninsula, including the political will for talks of both the United States and North Korea, will be maintained,” Lu told a daily news briefing.Reuters