(NSI News Source Info) February 16, 2009: Hillary Clinton arrives in Asia today on her maiden overseas trip as Secretary of State, with China at the heart of her agenda as the US seeks to tackle the global economic crisis, climate change and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Traditionally, Mrs Clinton’s predecessors have travelled first to Europe or the Middle East, but her focus on Asia reflects the region’s growing influence and President Obama’s desire to broaden ties with Beijing. She will also visit Japan, Indonesia and South Korea on her seven-day tour, part of a long-term US strategy to deal with the shifting global power structures between West and East.The US Secretary of State chooses Asia for her first foreign trip. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left for Asia on Sunday, on her maiden mission as the chief US diplomat after pledging to strengthen US ties with the region. As a presidential candidate last year, Mrs Clinton wrote that “our relationship with China will be the most important bilateral relationship in the world this century”. At a speech in New York on Friday, she declared: “Some believe that China on the rise is, by definition, an adversary. To the contrary, we believe that the United States and China can benefit from and contribute to each other’s successes. “It is in our interests to work harder to build on areas of common concern and shared opportunities.” America’s economic relationship with China is still the central issue — Beijing holds nearly $700 billion in US Treasury securities — but the Obama Administration wants China to be a central player on a range of other issues, particularly climate change. In her speech last week, Mrs Clinton noted that China passed the US recently as the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses, and invited Beijing to join America in a partnership to reduce global warming. Travelling with her this week will be Todd Stern, her special envoy for climate change negotiations, underscoring the importance of the issue to the new Administration. Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton believe that a sincere effort to engage China in reducing carbon emissions will improve chances of getting a deal in Copenhagen in December, where a new post-Kyoto treaty on climate change is due to be negotiated. During her visit to Beijing Mrs Clinton will visit a clean thermal power plant built through a collaboration between General Electric and China. China also chairs the stalled sixparty talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. On this issue, the Obama Administration’s policy is essentially the same as that left by President Bush: to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions through talks involving the US. The issue will be high on the agenda during Mrs Clinton’s stops in Tokyo and Seoul, both part of the multilateral effort to confront the threat. On Friday Mrs Clinton called Pyongyang’s programme “the most acute challenge to stability in NorthEast Asia”. She said that the US would normalise relations with Pyongyang if it “completely and verifiably” eliminated its weapons and programme. Mrs Clinton visits Japan first, in part to allay concerns in Tokyo that the US’s gaze has shifted from its strongest partner in the region toward Beijing. She will sign an agreement that will authorise the relocation of 8,000 US Marines stationed in Okinawa, whose presence has long angered the Japanese, to Guam. Under the deal Tokyo will pay for 60 per cent of the move but more than 15,000 Marines will remain. Last year the Bush Administration angered Japan by removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism without addressing Tokyo’s concerns about the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea. In an attempt to ease such concerns, Mrs Clinton will meet the families of some of the detainees. In Indonesia, where Mr Obama lived between the age of 6 and 10, Mrs Clinton will announce that she will attend a South-East Asian summit this summer, an event that the Bush Administration often skipped.
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