US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
makes his diplomatic debut at a G20
gathering in Germany
on Thursday, where his counterparts hope to find out what "America First" means for the rest of the world.
Host nation Germany
has billed the two-day meeting as a chance for the club of leading economies to discuss how to work together on challenges ranging from climate change to the conflicts in Syria, Ukraine
But all eyes will be on America's top diplomat, whose maiden trip to Europe
will bring him face-to-face with allies seeking reassurance that President Donald Trump
will not upend decades of US foreign policy despite his fiery campaign rhetoric.
will also have his first sit-down with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Bonn, talks that will be closely scrutinised for any hint of a rapprochement as controversy swirls over White House
ties to the Kremlin.
The Texan could also face questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after Trump
consternation yesterday by dropping Washington's years-long quest for a two-state solution, saying he would back a single state if it led to peace.
US relations with China
are likewise in the spotlight.The G20
gathering could see Tillerson's first encounter with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, whose attendance was only confirmed days earlier following a conciliatory phone call between Trump
and President Xi Jinping.
"is working out the schedule on bilateral meetings," ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, adding that Trump
and Xi Jinping
had had a "very good" conversation.
During the call, Trump
reaffirmed US adherence to the decades-old position that Taiwan is not separate from China, backtracking on earlier comments that cast doubt on the "One China" principle.
If former ExxonMobil boss Tillerson
faces the daunting task of clarifying Trump's, at times, contradictory policy signals to a wary international
community, he will not be doing it alone.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis is attending the second day of a NATO
meeting in Brussels Thursday, while Vice President Mike Pence will be the highest-ranking US official participating in the Munich Security Conference from Friday.
"There are plenty of uncertainties about what they want, what they plan," a European diplomat said about the Trump
administration. "We hope we'll get some clarity in the weeks to come.