WASHINGTON – Hillary Rodham Clinton departs Sunday on her first foreign trip as secretary of State, a visit to four Asian capitals that will feature talks on climate change, the economic crisis and the North Korean nuclear threat.
Clinton’s eight-day mission will take her to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China. The far East “was a logical choice for her to focus on,” and “signals that the U.S. recognizes the growing importance of Asia,” said Paul Stares, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.It also made sense, Stares said, because other senior Obama administration officials have already traveled to Europe, the Middle East and South Asia.
In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country where President Barack Obama lived as a child, Clinton may lay the groundwork for a presidential visit later this year, Stares said. Visiting Jakarta is also “part of this attempt to reshape the United States’ image in the Muslim world, said Rodger Baker, director of East Asian analysis at Texas-based Stratfor, an intelligence company.
In China, Japan and South Korea, Clinton will focus on the future of the “six-party” talks about North Korea’s nuclear program, said Michael Green, a former senior director for Asian affairs in National Security Council. Russia and North Korea round out the six nations in the talks.
“I think it’s very important that she’s on listening mode,” said Green, who was among experts briefing Clinton at a Feb. 4 dinner.
Clinton will hear that Tokyo and Seoul, in particular, are still dismayed by what Green says was the Bush administration’s “dramatic shift from a very hard-line policy” to a gentler approach, with little to show for it.The governments of Japan and Korea “believe that we just don’t think we can denuclearize North Korea and we’ll be happy to contain the problem,” he said. “That’s a serious matter. Clinton this week cited “North Korea’s attitude in the last weeks” and said her talks will help “determine the most effective way forward.”
Hillary Clinton highlights Asia, China in first major speech
NEW YORK, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) — In her first major policy speech as U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday attached great importance to developing stronger relations and having closer cooperation with Asian countries, in particular China.
Addressing an audience at Asia Society New York Headquarters on the eve of her four-nation Asian trip scheduled to start on Sunday, the first foreign visit since she was sworn in on Jan. 21, Clinton said that Washington is committed to a new era of diplomacy and development in which Washington will use “smart power” to work with historic allies and emerging nations to find regional and global solutions to common global problems.
“In making my first trip as secretary of state to Asia, I hope to signal that we need strong partners across the Pacific, just as we need strong partners across the Atlantic,” she noted, calling Asia “a contributor to global culture, a global economic power, and a region of vital importance to the United States today and into our future.”
The secretary of state’s destinations include Japan, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and China.
The United States and the Asian countries need to support and help each other in dealing with the gravest global threats today, which include financial instability and economic dislocation, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, food security and health emergencies, climate change and energy vulnerability, stateless criminal cartels and human exploitation, said Clinton.
While giving the audience a brief rundown of the key issues she will be addressing during her Asian tour next week, Clinton devoted much of the time to the U.S.-China relations.
The United States doesn’t see China on the rise as an adversary, said Clinton. To the contrary, the Obama administration believes that the United States and China can “benefit from and contribute to each other’s successes.”
Washington also believes it is “in our interest” to work harder to build on areas of common concerns and shared opportunities with China, she added.
“You know very well how important China is and how essential it is that we have a positive cooperative relationship,” said the top U.S. diplomat. “It is vital to peace and prosperity not only in the Asia-Pacific region but worldwide.”
“Our mutual economic engagement with China was evident during the economic growth of the past two decades, it is even clearer now at economic hard times and in the array of global challenges we face from nuclear security to climate change to pandemic disease and so much else,” she noted.
“Even with our differences, the United States will remain committed to pursuing a positive relationship with China, one that we believe is essential to America’s future peace, progress and prosperity,” she stressed.
Citing an ancient Chinese saying that “When you are in a common boat, you need to cross the river peacefully together,” Clinton said that she believes the ancient Chinese wisdom must continue to guide both countries today.
The secretary of state announced that the two sides will resume mid-level military-to-military discussions later this month.
“And we look forward to further improved relations across the Taiwan Strait,” she added.
She also revealed that during her stay in Beijing, she would discuss with the Chinese leaders on the structure of broadening dialogue between the two sides, on the basis of the Strategic Economic Dialogue from the previous administration.
Speaking of her first stop in Japan, Clinton said that the United States’ security alliance with Japan, which will be 50 years old next year, “has been and must remain unshakable.”
“We anticipate an even stronger partnership with Japan that helps preserve the peace and stability of Asia and increasingly focuses on global challenges …,” she added.
The United States and Indonesia now “have an opportunity for stronger partnership in education, energy and food security,” stated Clinton, adding that the two sides are committed to pursuing such a partnership with a concrete agenda during her visit to the Southeast Asian nation.
Calling the Republic of Korea “one of our staunchest historic allies,” Clinton said that the two countries are committed to expanding trade in a manner that benefits both, and “we will work together to that end.”
“So I will leave for Asia Sunday with a firm commitment to working very hard with our partners across the Pacific,” she concluded in her nearly-half-hour speech.
The secretary of state also took the opportunity to offer peace to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in exchange for the latter’s complete abandonment of its nuclear project.
The Obama administration is committed to working through the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and normalizing relations with the DPRK, if the latter totally abandons its nuclear weapons program, she said.
If the DPRK is prepared to “completely and verifiably” abandon its nuclear program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations with the country, she noted, adding that Washington will also assist Pyongyang in meeting its energy and other economic needs if that happens.
In her speech, Clinton also underlined Washington’s endorsement of “open and fair trade,” in an apparent attempt to soothe many countries’ concerns that the ongoing global financial crisis may lead to a fresh round of trade protectionism, particularly in the developed countries.
“(In the face of the financial crisis,) we cannot respond with a race to erect trade and other barriers. We must remain committed to a system of open and fair trade,” she stated.
The U.S. Congress’ push for a “Buy America” provision in the massive economic stimulus package proposed by the Obama administration has recently invited concerns from major trading partners of the United States, including Europe, Canada and Japan.