U.S. State Department rethinks plan not
to take media on Asia trip
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[March 10, 2017]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S.
State Department held out the possibility on Thursday that Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson might take reporters with him to Asia after it
initially broke with decades of tradition by telling the media he would
"We are still working out the logistics for this trip, so (we) cannot
yet speak definitively as to whether we'll be able to accommodate any
press on the Secretary's plane," State Department spokesman Mark Toner
wrote in an email."Going forward, the State Department will do
everything it can to accommodate a contingent of traveling media on
board the Secretary's plane."
The State Department told reporters earlier this week that Tillerson
would not take any of them on a March 15-19 trip to Japan, South Korea
and China, countries of strategic, military and economic interest to the
Major news organizations complained, among them the BBC, CNN, New York
Times, Washington Post and Reuters.
North Korea, which fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off
Japan's northwest coast on Monday, angering both South Korea and Japan,
is likely to be a key topic of Tillerson's trip.
Asked earlier this week why Tillerson was not taking media with him, a
State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told
reporters the plane "is too small to accommodate ... he carries a much
smaller footprint in terms of personnel, and that's not just press."
Toner did not respond when asked whether Tillerson had tried to get a
larger Air Force plane or how the department would respond to critics
who described the plan as self-defeating.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other past State
Department officials questioned Tillerson's plan, saying that by
including reporters, the chief U.S. diplomat could make the
administration's case and prevent other countries from dominating
coverage of U.S. policy.
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Albright, secretary of state under Democrat Bill Clinton, told
MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" on Wednesday taking the news media
demonstrates a U.S. commitment to a free press.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, has accused news outlets of
"fake news" and called journalists "the enemy of the people."
Richard Boucher, a retired U.S. diplomat who served as State
Department spokesman from 2000 to 2005 under Albright as well as
Republicans Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, could not recall a
time during his tenure when reporters did not fly on the plane.
Since becoming secretary of state on Feb. 1, Tillerson, a former
Exxon Mobil Corp chief executive, has traveled to Germany and
Mexico, in both cases inviting fewer media than his predecessors for
at least the last 50 years.
Veteran State Department television correspondent Marvin Kalb said
William Rogers, Richard Nixon's first secretary of state, began
taking press with him in 1969 and - with rare exceptions such as
Henry Kissinger's secret trip to China in 1971 - that had remained
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by John Walcott and Howard
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