Thursday, February 12, 2009

Clinton Trip Sets Asian Diplomatic Agenda

Asia bound

In her first overseas trip as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton will visit Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China, setting the tone for U.S. relationships with Asia over the next four years.

Among the items on her agenda are the global financial crisis and climate change.

Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Sheila Smith says Clinton's decision to visit Asia first underscores how important that region is to the United States.

"America's long-term interests are deeply intertwined with Asia," Smith says.

In addition to focusing on the economic stimulus package and stabilizing the global financial situation, Clinton likely will, Smith says, set the tone for the six party process on North Korea. But she says the secretary's trip will not be focused entirely on North Korea. "We don't want to have our entire Asia diplomatic agenda," based on North Korea.

Elizabeth Economy, another CFR senior fellow, says some of the most challenging discussions Clinton will face on the trip, which begins Sunday, will have to do with China.

While Economy believes the U.S. relationship with China has been a fairly good one, there are many things the United States wants China to do. But Clinton, she says, should plan on listening as much as she will talk.

"We need to hear from the Chinese about what their priorities are in their relationship with the United States," she says.

Clinton will push for a better human rights commitment from China. But that can, she warns, cause friction. Especially since March will mark the 50th anniversary of the uprising in Tibet. And this year is the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Tienanmen Square.

The secretary of state, she says, should "highlight the interdependence of our two countries" in areas such as the global financial crisis and climate change. Issues that, she says, will "require a partnership between the United States and China."


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