U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s use of different descriptions of South Korea and Japan during his recent tour to the regions has caused controversy.
During an interview with the Independent Journal Review on Saturday, the top U.S. diplomat described Japan as “our most important ally” while calling South Korea “an important partner” for the stability of Northeast Asia.
The interview was the first time that a U.S. state secretary differentiated between the two key allies in the Asia-Pacific region although it was not an official news conference.
The Independent Journal Review was the only media outlet accompanying Tillerson during his three-way tour.
An official of South Korea’s foreign ministry cautioned against reading too much into Tillerson’s remarks, saying the expressions are not too noteworthy when viewed in the whole context.
The controversy over the expressions was compounded by Tillerson's absence from an official ministerial dinner with the South Korean foreign minister during his visit to South Korea.