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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton heads off this weekend on her first trip overseas as America's top diplomat. She gave a preview today of her swing through Asia.
Secretary Clinton said the region is crucial to tackling the global financial crisis and climate change. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN: By choosing Asia, Secretary Clinton is sending a signal that this administration is ready to listen and tackle global problems with as many partners as possible.
Secretary HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (State Department): 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're confronting depends upon decisions that are made there. So it was an easy choice for me to make.
KELEMEN: She'll be going to Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and China. Secretary Clinton told the Asia Society in New York that the new special envoy on climate change will be traveling with her, and they will visit a clean-thermal-power plant in Beijing. She's also expected to raise human-rights issues there, though she downplayed that a bit when she spoke to NPR today after her speech.
Secretary CLINTON: I am going to be discussing a comprehensive agenda with the leaders of each of the nations that I visit, 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.
KELEMEN: Tell us a little bit about why you decided to visit Indonesia. Many people thought that President Obama would be making his first big trip overseas there, since he lived there as a child.
Secretary CLINTON: Well, Indonesia has had a remarkable several years of development, both in democratic institutions as well as economically. It is increasingly viewed as a positive story that we want to highlight and look for ways that we can work more closely together.
It is also the headquarters of ASEAN, which is a multilateral alliance of Asian nations that we intend to be more involved in, in order to demonstrate our commitment to issues of common concern.
KELEMEN: You addressed North Korea in your speech, but you didn't name an envoy, as many expected you to do. Do you plan to have an envoy on that issue?
Secretary CLINTON: Yes, we do intend to have an envoy, and we look forward to naming that person shortly.
KELEMEN: Secretary Clinton is expected to turn to Stephen Bosworth, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. He was just in Pyongyang, reportedly urging the North Koreans to give the U.S. some time to put together a negotiating team and not to test-fire a long-range missile. There are indications the North Koreans are planning to do that.
Secretary Clinton, in her speech to the Asia Society today, 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.
Secretary CLINTON: So much of it depends upon the choices that the North Korean government makes and 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.
KELEMEN: She said she'll be speaking to U.S. allies in the region about how to get disarmament talks back on track. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
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