US Defense Secretary James Mattis plans to travel to Japan and South Korea next month on his first trip as the Pentagon’s new chief, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Mattis will depart on February 1 for South Korea and then travel to Tokyo on February 3.
“The trip will underscore the commitment of the United States to our enduring alliances to Japan and the Republic of Korea, and further strengthen US/Japan/Republic of Korea security cooperation,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said.
The trip comes amid worries in the two long-standing US allies about the direction of US policy in their region under President Donald Trump.
During the campaign, Trump threatened to withdraw US forces from the two countries if they did not step up their financial support.
Tensions are also rising with China over its moves to assert sovereignty in disputed areas of the South China Sea, and over North Korean threats to test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the US mainland.
In another jarring note for the region, Trump this week withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement signed by former president Barack Obama but never ratified by the US Congress.
The agreement was signed by 12 countries bordering the Pacific. In addition to the United States, signers included Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.