Tillerson shuns all but conservative website on Asia tour

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A reporter from a conservative-leaning website is the only media representative flying with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his trip to Asia this week.

The website, the Independent Journal Review, said late Tuesday that IJR reporter Erin McPike is the lone journalist accompanying Tillerson to Japan, South Korea and China. The State Department confirmed the account.

Tillerson arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday for the first leg of the trip, which is occurring amid escalating tensions with North Korea.

The department originally had said Tillerson would not take journalists with him as he was traveling on a small plane. It said accommodations would be made for those who traveled commercially.

But Tillerson ended up taking a Boeing 737, which could have accommodated some of the usual contingent of State Department journalists, each of whom pays his or her own way for trips.

A number of Washington-based correspondents instead met up with Tillerson in Japan.

On his first two trips as secretary of state, Tillerson traveled with a small number of "pool" reporters who provided information about his events to a broader group of reporters. McPike, the IJR reporter, is traveling unilaterally and is not a pool reporter.

Multiple reporters from numerous global, national and regional news organizations have traveled with the secretary of state for nearly 50 years under Republican and Democratic administrations, which believed their presence helped inform American taxpayers and foreign governments and publics about U.S. policy.

The State Department Correspondents Association said in a statement it was "disappointed" in the decision for Tillerson to bring only one reporter on the trip, but would continue to work with the State Department to address concerns.

   AP-WF-03-15-17 1444GMT