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Kerry Faces Area Tensions on Asia Trip

China's land reclamation efforts have raised tensions with its neighbors.
China's land reclamation efforts have raised tensions with its neighbors.
US Secretary of State Faces Tensions in Asia
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Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling in Asia this weekend. He is expected to mainly discuss North Korea's military program and China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Mr. Kerry will visit Beijing on Saturday and Sunday for talks with top officials there. The meeting is in preparation for a Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting this summer and President Xi Jinping’s planned visit to the U.S. in autumn.

The Secretary of State will also go to South Korea. He is to talk with President Park Geun-hye and other officials about bilateral and regional issues.

Mr. Kerry’s visit to China comes at a time of increased tensions over China's expanding land reclamation effort in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

China has been strengthening its land reclamation efforts in the Spratly Islands. Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to some of the islands.

Earlier this week, U.S. officials said the Defense Department is considering sending military ships and planes to the South China Sea to demonstrate freedom of navigation.

That resulted in a quick answer from China’s foreign ministry, which said the move would be considered provocative.

David Shear is U.S. Assistant Defense Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs. He said China’s building projects on coral reefs could cause military insecurity in the region.

He said it could lead other regional governments to strengthen their own militaries increasing the risk of crises and arms races.

Mr. Shear said China had built much more than its neighbors in the South China Sea.

Secretary of State Also Visits South Korea

Mr. Kerry’s visit to South Korea will take place just days after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile.

The test could indicate progress in North Korea's secretive missile-building program.

North Korea's submarine missile launch took place days before Secretary Kerry's visit to Seoul.
North Korea's submarine missile launch took place days before Secretary Kerry's visit to Seoul.

Republican U.S. Senator Cory Gardner criticized President Barack Obama in connection with the test. He said the launch is another confirmation of North Korea’s growing nuclear capabilities. He said the president has not answered the growing threat.

Six-party talks with North Korea over its nuclear program have not moved forward since 2008.

World powers do not have a lot of will right now to reopen the talks. Katharine H.S. Moon is an expert with the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies and the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies. She says the form and process of the negotiations need to be to be rethought.

But Moon said it is unlikely that North Korea would use its weapons recklessly. She said the government is more reasonable and practical than people think.

She also said North Korea has been more demanding about conditions for negotiations to take place and for reducing its nuclear program.

After South Korea, Mr. Kerry travels to Seattle for talks linked to U.S. trade.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Pam Dockins reported this story from Washington. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

bilateral adj. between two sides

regional adj. having to do with a large area of land

reclamation n. to make land available from the sea; to regain something

navigation n. the process of finding a path or rout

indicate v. to show something