On Asian Tour, Clinton Meets Japanese Officials

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured Japanese officials that she will keep North Korea to its pledge of giving up nuclear weapons. Clinton is touring Asian nations on her first mission as America's chief diplomat. She visits Indonesia Wednesday.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Hillary Clinton's first trip abroad as secretary of state is to Asia -underscoring that America is a transpacific power, as well as a transatlantic one.

In Tokyo today, she offered assurances of more respect for Japanese and other Asian points of view. She also promised greater efforts to battle climate change, action to revive the sagging world economy and continued pressure on North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons.

NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with the secretary.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Secretary Clinton capped a day of meetings in Tokyo with the kind of forum she seems to prefer, a town hall with students at Tokyo University.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (State Department): And America is ready to listen again. Too often in the recent past, our government has not heard the different perspectives of people around the world. In the Obama administration, we intend to change that.

Mr. KEN SAKAKIBARA(ph) (Student, Tokyo University): Glorious to meet you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SAKAKIBARA: My name is Ken Sakakibara…

KELEMEN: Students eagerly raised their hands to ask the secretary about everything, from nuclear energy to the perception that the U.S. war on terrorism is anti-Islam. Secretary Clinton says her next stop, Indonesia, is part of her effort to reach out to the Muslim world.

On climate change, the secretary said she'd like to see the U.S. and Japan work together to help China avoid the mistakes other industrialized nations have made.

Sec. CLINTON: Here is an opportunity for Japan and the United States to work in partnership with China, to help them leapfrog over the harmful pattern of development. You know, Japan is, as you know, a leader in clean energy.

KELEMEN: Secretary Clinton said this partnership with China could be an engine for growth for Japan's sagging economy. She didn't mention the fact that Japan's finance minister resigned today amid allegations that he was drunk at a recent international conference; nor did she discuss the prime minister's low approval rating. Instead she extended an invitation for Taro Aso to become the first foreign leader to meet President Obama in the White House next week.

Japan's foreign minister said this is a sign of how important U.S.-Japanese relations are. He also said he came away from his meeting with the secretary, confident that U.S. policy on North Korea won't change in any significant way. Clinton said she is watching Pyongyang closely.

Sec. CLINTON: A possible missile launch that North Korea is talking about would be very unhelpful in moving our relationship forward.

KELEMEN: She met with families of two of the Japanese citizens who were abducted decades ago by North Korea, and one of her aides called that a particularly difficult but moving meeting for her. The secretary also took in a bit of Japanese culture, a tea ceremony with the Empress at the Imperial Palace and a visit to a shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the father of modern Japan.

(Soundbite of a drum)

KELEMEN: Secretary Clinton looked a bit startled when a monk first struck the huge drum in the inner sanctuary of the shrine, but she seemed to enjoy the rituals of the purification ceremony and the performance from the shrine maidens.

(Soundbite of music)

KELEMEN: Four women in colorful kimonos performed a sacred dance for the secretary's entourage. She later said that the shrine's message of balance and harmony is a good concept for America's role in the world.

Tomorrow, the secretary touches down in Indonesia.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Tokyo.

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