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Secretary of State Clinton Visits Asia, Japan First

by kace

  • Posted on February 16, 2009

  • News Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Japan on Monday, her first foreign visit as secretary of state, she reaffirmed the “cornerstone” alliance between Washington and Tokyo and declared that “we have to work together to address the global financial crisis, which is affecting all of us.”

En route to Japan, Mrs. Clinton mixed a conciliatory tone toward North Korea — provided it agrees to relinquish its nuclear ambitions — with a warning that the North Korean government must be more forthcoming about the fate of Japanese citizens whom it abducted in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Mrs. Clinton played down suspicions, held by some in the Bush administration, that North Korea has a clandestine program to produce highly enriched uranium. What is not in dispute, she said, is that North Korea possesses plutonium, which it is using to make nuclear weapons.

Mrs. Clinton’s choice of Japan for her first stop is meant to reassure the Japanese that they remain America’s key Asian ally. Ten years ago, former President Bill Clinton skipped Japan during an Asian swing and spent more than a week in Beijing — a practice some dubbed “Japan-passing.”

To the traditional list of official meetings, Mrs. Clinton has added a town-hall meeting at a university — the kind of encounter she thrived on as first lady and political candidate. On Tuesday, she will tour the Meiji Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji in the 1920’s.

Mrs. Clinton also plans to meet the leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Ichiro Ozawa. That may rattle the government of Prime Minister Taro Aso, which is deeply unpopular and on shaky ground.