WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson landed in Moscow on Tuesday ahead of a much-anticipated sit-down with Russia’s top diplomat.
Tillerson’s mission will be to convince Russia to go along with the U.S. plan to transition Syrian President Bashar al-Assad out of power.
“I think it is clear to all of us that reign of the Assad family coming to an end,” he said.
Tillerson will not be meeting with Vladimir Putin during his trip. The Kremlin has said the Russian President does not have the time to see him but that does not mean won’t weigh in on the situation.
On Tuesday, Putin denied Syria was behind last week’s chemical weapons attack which killed more than 80 civilians. He added that Russia has evidence that the U.S. is planning more strikes in Syria and plans to blame the Syrian government.
“Russia has really aligned itself with the Assad regime, the Iranians and Hezbollah. Is that a long term alliance that serves Russia’s interests,” questioned Tillerson.
Republican Senator John McCain said the U.S. should not wait for another gas attack to happen. He believes the Russians knew the Syrians were using chemical weapons because they were operating out of the same military base. The White House has downplayed an Associated Press report that said the U.S. has concluded Russia had advance knowledge of the chemical attack in Syria.
While in Russia, Tillerson is also expected to address growing concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program, another topic the two countries disagree on.
Russia’s foreign ministry says Moscow is very concerned the U.S. will take action against North Korea without support from the rest of the world.
Tensions are mounting. The U.S. is currently conducting military exercises in South Korea and the Pentagon has positioned an aircraft carrier of the Korean peninsula.
“We need to show that we’re prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure that North Korea does not engage in any deliberate attack in that region,” said former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to with his thoughts on North Korea.
North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2017
Panetta said North Korea often uses April 15th, the birthday of its first leader, Kim Il-Sung, as a chance to take provocative actions and this year could be no different.