The State Department Correspondents’ Association says it is “disappointed” by the number of reporters accompanying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his trip to Asia this week.
“The State Department Correspondents’ Association is disappointed that Secretary Tillerson chose to travel this week to North Asia without a full contingent of the diplomatic press corps or even a pool reporter,” it said in a statement Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
“After saying it was unable to accommodate press on the Secretary’s plane to Asia due to space and budget constraints, the State Department offered a unilateral seat to one reporter,” the group added.
“Several of our members have traveled commercially to meet Secretary Tillerson on the ground in Asia. We expect that the diplomatic press corps will be afforded access to Secretary Tillerson equal to that given to the reporter on the plane.”
The right-leaning Independent Journal Review announced Tuesday that Erin McPike, its White House correspondent, would join Tillerson on his first major trip to Asia representing the United States.
“We don’t take this opportunity lightly and recognize the controversy surrounding press access for the trip,” it said in a statement.
The State Department reportedly declined to confirm whether there would be any reporters on Tillerson’s plane hours before the former Exxon Mobile Corp. CEO was expected to leave Tuesday.
Acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a phone briefing with reporters on Tuesday that the agency was considering “having a seat available” on Tillerson’s aircraft.
“We’ve been very clear, frankly, that this is a smaller footprint all around, and this is the secretary’s decision, to travel with a smaller footprint,” he said. "To some degree, it’s a cost-saving measure.”
Tillerson will visit China, Japan and South Korea this week amid rising concern over North Korea’s recent missile testing in the region.