Secretary Clinton Seeks To Strengthen Ties In Asia

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes her first trip overseas as America's top diplomat this weekend, and on Friday she gave a preview of her swing through Asia.

Clinton said it is a region that will be crucial for the U.S. when it comes to tackling the global financial crisis and climate change.

By choosing to go to Asia, Clinton said, she is sending a signal that this administration is ready to listen and tackle global problems with as many partners as possible.

"We know that so much of our future depends upon our relationships there, and we equally know that our capacity to solve a lot of the global challenges that we are confronting depends on decisions that are made there," Clinton says. "So it was an easy choice for me to make."

Working With Allies

Clinton is traveling to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and China. She told the Asia Society in New York that the new special envoy on climate change, Todd Stern, will be traveling with her and that they will visit a clean thermal power plant in Beijing. Clinton is also expected to raise human rights issues there, though she downplayed that when she spoke to NPR after her speech.

"I'm going to be discussing a comprehensive agenda with the leaders of each of the nations that I visit," Clinton said. "And human rights will be on the agenda, as will common efforts to deal with the global financial crisis and combat climate change, and prepare for pandemics, as well as work to enhance our security arrangements, and other opportunities that we see in front of us."

North Korea

In her speech to the Asia Society on Friday, Clinton said the U.S. is ready to normalize relations with Pyongyang if North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate its nuclear weapons program.

"So much of it depends upon the choices that the North Korean government makes," she said. "Certainly, we are hopeful that they will not engage in provocative actions and words that could create a much more difficult path for us to walk with them."

Clinton said she will be speaking to U.S. allies in the region about how to get disarmament talks back on track.



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