Sun, Feb 15, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Clinton vows to strengthen US relations with Asia

‘READY TO WORK’The US secretary of state is to depart on her first foreign trip today, visiting Asia to set the tone of the new administration’s relations with the region

AFP , NEW YORK

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged on Friday to deepen US bonds with Asia in order to tackle the global economic crisis and climate change as well as prevent nuclear proliferation.

On the eve of her tour of Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China, her first foreign trip, Clinton said in a speech she was “ready to deliver a message about America’s desire for more rigorous and persistent commitment and engagement.”

She added she was “ready to work with leaders in Asia to resolve the economic crisis ... [and] to strengthen our historic partnerships and alliances while developing deeper bonds with all nations.”

In her first foreign policy speech, delivered before the Asia Society, a non-profit educational institution, Clinton said she was also “ready to help prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Asia.”

Clinton added that North Korea’s nuclear program remained “the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia.”

She said US President Barack Obama’s administration would build a strong relationship with the Pyongyang if it scraps its nuclear program. The country alarmed the world in 2006 with the test of a nuclear device.

If Pyongyang “completely and verifiably” eliminates the program, Washington “will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula’s longstanding armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty.”

She said Washington would also “assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people,” who face hunger and economic hardships.

Analysts say Clinton appears to have chosen Japan as her first stop to smooth feathers she ruffled when she wrote during the presidential campaign that the US-China relationship will be the most important one.

Clinton stressed that climate change would be a key topic on her visit, particularly with China’s rapid industrial growth.

“Climate change is not just an environmental nor an energy issue, but also has implications for our health, our economies and our security,” Clinton said.

Accompanying her is Todd Stern, her special envoy for climate change, to “begin the discussions that we hope will create the opportunities for cooperation,” she said.

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