Taipei, March 16 (CNA) The fact that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Asia started in Japan highlights the importance of Tokyo to the U.S., though relations will be sorely tested by growing trade friction between the two countries, a scholar said Thursday.
Ho Szu-shen (何思慎), a professor from the Department of Japanese Language and Culture at Fu Jen Catholic University, said Tillerson arrived in Japan on Wednesday, the first leg of an Asian tour which will also take in South Korea and China. His decision to visit Japan first demonstrates its importance to the U.S. as a diplomatic partner in Asia.
However, despite close cooperation in security matters, trade friction between the two has not diminished, Ho opined.
U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Japan and China of artificially depreciating their currencies, hurting U.S. jobs and competitiveness.
Robert Lighthizer, a U.S. Trade Representative nominee, also said he would make market access for U.S. agricultural products a top priority during a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on March 14.
As a result, trade disputes between Japan and the U. S. are likely to escalate, Ho said.
Noting that North Korea's nuclear weapons will be one of the major issues discussed during Tillerson's visit, some observers are saying North Korea issue could force changes in the U.S. strategy of "forming partnership with Japan and South Korea to target China."
Ho observed that whether the U.S. takes a soft or tough approach on North Korea, it will need the cooperation of China.
(By Scarlett Chai and Lilian Wu)