U.S. officials say Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with members of the NATO alliance next week, following criticism over his initial decision to skip a NATO foreign ministers meeting.
State Department officials say Tillerson will meet NATO members on March 31 in Brussels. Foreign ministers from NATO countries were originally scheduled to gather in Brussels on April 5-6. It is not clear if the new meeting will replace the April dates.
There was no official statement from NATO.
Voices of support for NATO
Earlier this week, Tillerson's office said he would not be able to attend the April meeting of the 28-member alliance, raising fears about the U.S. administration's commitment to NATO.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly dismissed NATO as “obsolete,” though his vice president, Mike Pence, voiced staunch U.S. support for the alliance during a news conference in Brussels last month and Tillerson has also expressed his support for NATO, as has U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis.
After meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week at the White House, Trump said Germany owes “vast sums of money to NATO and the United States,” voicing a charge he has repeatedly made that allies do not pay their fair share.
Tillerson to visit Turkey
U.S. State Department officials said Tillerson will travel to Brussels after his trip to Ankara, Turkey. They said more details about his schedule will be released soon.
Tillerson is also expected to to attend Trump's meeting on April 6-7 with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Earlier this week, the White House announced that Trump will attend a summit of NATO heads of state set to be held May 25 in Brussels, and will host NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg for talks on April 12.