Tillerson’s Asia trip not seen producing concrete action on North Korea: State Dept

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson arrives at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will have “substantive, hard” talks with U.S. partners in Asia on next steps in dealing with North Korea, but his visit this week is not likely to produce an immediate specific response, the State Department said on Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t predict that there’s going to be concrete action out of his trip,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing on Wednesday when asked if Tillerson expected firm commitments on moving forward against North Korea.

“I think this is a chance for him to have a lot of substantive, hard discussions with our allies and partners in the region about possible next steps, again recognizing that the threat of North Korea, frankly, is only growing stronger,” Toner said.

Tillerson is visiting South Korea, Japan and China on his Asia trip.

Asked what Tillerson would tell Asian trading partners following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal negotiated by his predecessor, Toner said the secretary’s message would be that trade is a vital U.S. stimulus.

“We want to pursue trade, we believe in trade,” Toner said. “Trade is good for American workers, it’s good for American companies, but we want to do that on a bilateral basis and … we want to ensure a level playing field for U.S. workers and U.S. companies.”

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Leslie Adler)