'Wild card' Trump heads into North Korea's line of sight

In the South Korean capital Seoul, Trump will find people who have lived with that reality for decades. 

"It's crucial for Trump to show that he's willing to defend and protect South Korea because there's a lot of questions and concerns on the part of South Koreans about his commitment to that alliance, and that has fed fears here in South Korea that they may be abandoned," said Jean Lee, a global fellow at the Wilson Center and former Pyongyang bureau chief for The Associated Press. 

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Al Jazeera: US, South Korea laud new UN sanctions on Pyongyang

Jean Lee, a fellow at the Wilson Centre, said it was "not the right time" for Tillerson to engage with his North Korean counterpart.

"The US and its allies will be looking for some proof and concrete steps taken by the North Korean side to show that they are willing to discuss a freeze or step back from the nuclear provocations, before they even begin discussing engagement," she told Al Jazeera from Seoul, South Korea's capital.

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