The State Department is planning Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s first international trips in mid-to-late March, two sources familiar with the preliminary conversations tell CNN.
State Department officials are eyeing meetings with Blinken’s NATO counterparts in Brussels and a visit to the Asia Pacific as the secretary’s first stops, the source said. The order of these two trips has yet to be determined.
These early plans could change, the sources warned, particularly as the Biden administration monitors the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden's First 100 Days
When Blinken visits the Asia Pacific it is likely that he will travel alongside Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to meet their Japanese, South Korean and Australian counterparts, the sources said.
Blinken has been vaccinated, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday. He also said that Blinken has not yet traveled because “there is a general disposition” across the Executive Branch “against travel for all but purposes that are deemed essential or exigent.”
Price said that Blinken’s travel would not happen imminently.
The pandemic has constrained the Biden administration’s goal of re-engaging with allies. While phone calls with counterparts worldwide have been frequent, no one in President Joe Biden’s Cabinet has traveled overseas.
In the coming weeks, before Blinken begins traveling abroad, State Department officials are planning a series of virtual trips for the secretary, the sources said.
Blinken’s virtual stops are expected to include Europe, Canada and Mexico, as well as several African countries. Blinken’s top advisers are making an effort to be creative in their planning. For example, in addition to meeting counterparts, Blinken is expected to engage in cultural and NGO events on these virtual tours. He may also have guests such as members of Congress or cultural icons join him.
The virtual visits are expected to be logistically complicated, given they are a new model of engagement, one source explained.