IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Clinton eyes Asia for first trip abroad

Hillary Rodham Clinton is looking to Asia as she plans her first trip abroad as secretary of state.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is ceremonially sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on Monday as her husband and daughter look on.AFP/Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is looking east as she plans her first trip abroad as America's top diplomat.

Clinton is expected to visit key North Asian allies Japan and South Korea, as well as China, on her maiden voyage, which will likely begin next week, according to diplomats briefed on the planning. She may also tack on other stops, including possibly one in Southeast Asia, they said on Monday.

The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the itinerary is still in flux.

The State Department has not yet commented on Clinton's travel plans.

The trip would underscore the Obama administration's commitment to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue, affirm its intention to maintain strong ties with Tokyo and Seoul and set the stage for broader engagement with Beijing that the president and his top aides have pledged, the diplomats said.

In a phone call on Friday, President Barack Obama told Chinese President Hu Jintao that he looked forward "to early contacts and exchanges between senior officials of our two countries," according to the White House.

In written responses to questions posed during her Senate confirmation hearing last month, Clinton said she looked forward to making an early trip to Southeast Asia. She noted a particular interest in traveling to Indonesia where she said she wanted to restart Peace Corps programs that were halted in 1965.

Visiting Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic nation where Obama spent part of his early childhood, would serve a dual purpose: reaching out to Muslims and reassuring Southeast Asian countries of U.S. interest in the region. Many Southeast Asian nations felt neglected by the Bush administration.

Asia has not been a traditional first destination for new secretaries of state, who often start their official travels in the capitals of longtime U.S. allies in Europe or in the Middle East.

But with Vice President Joe Biden heading to Europe this week for a security conference in Germany and special envoy George Mitchell having already visited the Middle East, Clinton has been largely freed from the strictures of past practice.